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4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 25 July 2011
American Gangster is one of those films that I was put off buying, on the assumption it would be a 'blood and guts', 'shoot 'em up' type of film, and indeed my heart sank when I watched the opening scene. I needn't have worried though, AG is far above most other recent films of this genre, with a depth to it (allowed for no doubt by being based on a true story) that tends to be missing from many such films nowadays, where special effects are seen as a substitute for a decent plot.

As other reviwers have noted, it's a long film, but one that keeps the viewer hooked right to the end. From being a film purchased for no other reason than it was cheap AG has gone straight into my 'keeper' section and I can't really offer a higher recommendation than that!
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VINE VOICEon 11 January 2010
Given the lineup of Russell Crowe, Denzel Washington and Ridley Scott, could this movie fail? No

Weighing in at almost 3 hours (extended edition) one could be forgiven for thinking that American Gangster would be a bit of a drag but no, it moves along quite nicely pacing out the action against the story. The story itself is very hard to believe in the end but it's Hollywood vs facts again. Crowe and Washington, as always, deliver the goods even though they aren't onsceen together too much (no DeNiro/Pacino moment really). One of Ridley's greatest (no mean feat!).

Audio: English DTS HD master; French, Italian, German, Spanish and Japanese DTS surround

Subs: English, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Japanese, Korean, Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Portuguese, Trad Mandarin
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This violent drama, from director Ridley Scott, is a modern production covering vintage subject-matter, namely the rise (and fall) of the New York real-life enforcer turned 'drug-lord' Frank Lucas from the late 60s to early 90s. To balance things up (and justify the near 3-hour running time of the extended edition) the biopic also follows, in almost equal measure, the progress of loner police narcotics detective Richie Roberts as juggles his attempts to bring to book those involved in New York organised crime with part-time educational activities in order to become a fully-qualified lawyer.

Whilst there are significant detail differences in the 'story', overall it is not unlike the earlier classic film 'The French Connection' in the sense that we have a policeman who becomes almost infatuated with tracking-down a single 'personality' in involved in local illegal drug dealings. It is certainly not like other 'gangster' movie classics such as 'Goodfellas' or 'The Godfather', despite many reviews mentioning them in the same breath as this film, if for no other reason than those other classics focussed entirely on the criminals and their personal lives.

The biggest similarity between this film and the FC is that the respective gangsters are both ruthless yet almost classy in their demeanour and the policemen are both rather shambling yet strangely effective; the one difference being that Richards is (almost) completely 'legitimate' and honest, as well us getting to know a lot about his personal life (eg failed marriage, law education), whereas 'Popeye' in the FC often transgresses and all we ever see of him is while he is 'on the job'.

I already owned the extended edition on DVD (which like the Blu-ray also allows you to see the original theatrical cut) in Region 1 form which comprised 3-discs (and a unique book casing+colour book); as far as I can see this Blu-ray replicates the disc content completely, so you get it all on just the one platter ! Unfortunately, whilst very acceptable in all respects, what you also get is the same standard of presentation with no perceptible improvement between playback of an upscaled DVD and this Blu-ray; I really could not detect any difference at all, which probably shows how good the DVD already was, as well the fact that it was not possible to improve.....

I've added a photo of the back of the box, which details the disc specification/extras, to the main Amazon page for this Blu-ray.

The film plot (to repeat, based on the real-life characters) essentially involves the evolution of Lucas and how he expands his power by virtue of a direct, novel, way of procuring/importing/distributing heroin to his local customers. What we also see is how Richards goes about his attempts to enforce the law, as well as how he ties in his legal credentials - ultimately a truly staggering way. Lucas is methodical and calculating - but so is Richards, but ultimately his honesty marks him out as being different from the majority remainder of the narcotics policeman (which the film also covers in some detail) who are corrupt and almost as bad as their prey; both Lucas and Richards are 'different' - one from the rival local Mafia and the other from his colleagues....

The depicted violence is often extreme, without being overtly gory but along with the portrayal of illicit drug-taking shows why an '18' viewing certificate is applied. The period production-values are excellent and perhaps suggests why the presentation does not come across as 'modern' in terms of sharpness/clarity. Finally, the lead actors (Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe) are, as more often than not, very good and convincing - Crowe in particular manages to let you forget the Hollywood personality he is and instead concentrate on his characterisation (which bares some similarity to his earlier marvellous performance in the similarly excellent drama (The Insider'). Scott, again as he usually does, achieves great success with his direction and production; the long running-time of the film never really becomes an issue as he crafts events to unfold and evolve in such a captivating way.

As mentioned earlier, after direct comparison between the two sources, as acceptable as the presentation is and comprehensive as the extras are nothing is better than already available on DVD. The picture is soft and grainy (intentional I'm sure) with a level of sharpness suiting the period be covered; the audio might get a 'boost' to English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 but the soundtrack didn't really need it. The Blu-ray is only an upgrade as the extras include those not on the UK 2-disc DVD, so I think that can be the only justification to move from DVD to Blu-ray. For first-time buyers who have an HD setup, getting the Blu-ray is an obvious choice but don't think you're watching the film a better way then DVD owners who can upscale playback ! The only proviso I have is that as I've yet to watch all the extras the Blu-ray "U-Control" picture-in-picture video commentary (Unrated Extended version only) may be unique to this disc, but Universal do have a habit of simply re-hashing the already present audio commentary+featurettes content to populate that feature so don't get too excited....

So, this film should not disappointment anyone who enjoys a good, but violent, drama; it is well produced/acted and is presented perfectly adequately on Blu-ray. The extended cut and extras make the package attractive but the HD presentation is no better than the DVD, so an upgrade is not really justified unless the small number of additional extras are really needed.
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on 8 November 2016
Best film I have seen in ages. There is a real story line, with a realistic plot that makes the film compelling to watch. Excellent acting too. Far better than films that rely on special effects to keep you entertained. Brilliant.
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VINE VOICEon 20 January 2008
this is quite simply one of the best films of 2007. it's a bit slow, but the story is really compelling and the acting is excellent from both russell crowe and denzel washington, who let's face it, is quite simply incapable of ever giving a bad performance no matter what he happens to be in, even the otherwise dreadfull virtuosity which previously teamed up washington with crowe had good performances from both washington and a then unknown russell crowe.
in fact, the acting is excellent from everyone in the cast, the other standout goes to josh brolin as a dirty cop on washington's payroll. the only slight fault i can find is you can't help feeling you've seen it all before. crowe's character at times comes off like serpico, and the soundtrack feels like a martin scorsese movie.
this is one of ridley scott's best films and will be remembered i think in years to come along with other classic ridley scott films like alien, blade runner and gladiator, and more than makes up for the rather dull a good year.
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on 14 December 2007
This is definitely another masterful piece of work from Ridley Scott if not quite a masterpiece.

The film is beautifully shot, as you would expect of a Ridley Scott film, and the early 70s New York seediness is powerfully evoked. It lacks the romanticism of the Godfather and the more sleazy glamour of Goodfellas but it makes up for this with a more realistic depiction; this is the seventies as I remember it, though admittedly I was not in gangster land Manhattan at the time.

The Drug enforcement officers are downbeat, cynical and mostly corrupt and on the make. They are deeply unappealing people and Crowe's character Richie Roberts pitches against them in his incorruptibility, which makes him an outsider among his colleagues. Roberts is no moral puritan, his line in the sand is drawn elsewhere, as he is a lousy father, useless husband and pretty promiscuous. This is quite the opposite of Denzel Washington's Frank Lucas, who is a devoted husband and family oriented man. He demands loyalty but is able to indulge his family whereas Roberts is loyal to nothing except his job.

Frank Lucas's rise to power comes about by sheer business acumen as he buys high quality heroine from source in Vietnam and then transports it in the coffins of dead soldiers coming back home in military planes. He is able to undercut all the competition with a finer product and corners the market out doing the Mafia, who being wise to a winning situation join him.

The trappings of success and power are quite extraordinarily displayed in a gorgeously opulent set piece where Frank Lucas negotiates with Mafia Godfather Armand Assante.

There are some spectacular short sequences of ultra violence which reinforces Frank Lucas's seriousness, ruthlessness and take no prisoners approach to all who hinder or cross him.

For me the 157 minute running time fairly flew by as I found the film totally absorbing. Denzel Washington's acting is superb and Crowe's is in another dimension with a deep, quiet and very powerful performance. In my view Crowe's performance is worthy of an Oscar.

The ending is surprising and illustrates a place where the different make ups of the two characters meet both in their role as outsiders and their attitude to the concept of loyalty.

See this film, it is worth it.
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on 21 January 2011
American Gangster is one of my favourite films of the last decade, brilliant performances from both Denzel Washington as the ruthless Frank Lucas and Russell Crowe as the down on his luck cop. I am sure everyone knows the story of the film, but it was masterfully told, the film was paced very well, letting you get to know the 2 main characters without ever really slowing down or dragging too much.

Looks really good on Blu Ray and the extras are worth the price alone.

A must have in the collection, five stars from me.
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on 17 December 2016
This 162 min REGION B/2 DVD was part of a 6 film box set that I purchased from Amazon and found it compelling viewing and the type of film most people would enjoy.
Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe team up with director Ridley Scott in this powerful true epic story, Armed with ruthless, streetwise tactics and a strict sense of honour, crime boss Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington) rules Harlams chaotic drug underworld. When outcast cop Richie Roberts (Russell Crowe) set out to bring down Lucas s multimillion dollar empire it plunges both men into a legendary confrontation.
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VINE VOICEon 24 October 2008
I watched American Gangster for the first time on Sky the other day and have to say it is a great film and a pleasure to watch. I've just ordered the blu ray.

It's a slow burner and not the most action packed, but that isn't always a bad thing as this film proves. Based on the true story of Frank Lucas and his rise to power and Richie Roberts and his relentless quest to bring Lucas to justice.

The acting is great as you would expect from such a cast and New York and New Jersey look great going back to the 70's.

There is some great books and documentaries on Frank Lucas and Nicky Barnes (this guy should have film about his life also) so check them out.

All in all a 5 star film.
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on 29 August 2015
A strong and solid crime drama, well directed by Scott with not a unique and distinctive touch, so basically you do not have his usual photographic and glossy effects, which is good, but it seems like, by trying not to be the usual Ridley Scott, he did not replace his dated style with something else that make him look different by any other good director (this film could have been directed by Antoine Fuqua and maybe better). That said, I really enjoyed it and the two main characters are very well performed by Crowe and Washington, and also Josh Brolin sticks out in a great secondary and evil character. What is really good about this film is the script, both in the subtextes (crime and american capitalistic dream look the same) and in the structure (it is equally focused on the two characters lives, so you have 2 stories alternating and interweaving, and the film, at the end, it is not like you expect: not a fight between crime and justice, but the story of 2 outsiders meeting, facing each other and....). Excellent blu ray
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