Nobody used to notice Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington), the quiet driver to one of the inner city's leading black crime bosses. But when his boss suddenly dies, Frank exploits the opening in the power structure to build his own empire and create his own version of the American dream. He comes to rule the inner-city drug trade in the 70s, flooding the streets with a purer product at a better price. Lucas outplays all of the leading crime syndicates and becomes a civic superstar.... More
Richie Roberts (Russell Crowe) is an outcast cop close enough to the streets to feel a shift of control in the drug underworld. Roberts believes someone is climbing the rungs above the known Mafia families and begins to suspect that a black power player has come from nowhere to dominate the scene. Both Lucas and Roberts share a rigorous ethical code that sets them apart from their own colleagues, making them lone figures on opposite sides of the law. The destinies of these two men will become intertwined as they approach a confrontation where only one of them can come out on top.Hide
On Demand, DVD & Blu-Ray
Available from 5 providers
BY Andrew Hedley Flicks Writer
The unfortunate thing about the hype for American Gangster is, for me anyway, that the names Ridley Scott, Russell Crowe and Denzel Washington conjure up feelings of stuffy, cigar-chomping megalomania. Scott, in particular, has in recent years been a bit guilty of churning out rather stolid chunks of blockbuster – decent but never adventurous. Crowe hasn't faired much better ever since his public life revealed him to be a king-sized prat. And Washington, well, he's been in so much bland tripe involving 'inspirational' stories that he's become a bit of a one-trick pony.
It's a pleasant surprise, then, to find American Gangster a rather absorbing drama that comes close to, but never quite matches, a couple of classic crime movies, namely Goodfellas and The French Connection. As a period movie, the attention to detail is quite remarkable. As an epic - Scott's specialty - it certainly has an all-enveloping wow-factor.
Washington gives an interesting performance as villain Frank Lucas. Rarely dipping into the realm of 'pure evil', his gangster is in fact a consummate businessman who loves his mum; a true entrepreneur who wins sympathy with a solid work ethic and a canny mind. Crowe is content to play more of a supporting role, but the performance is certainly one of his best to date. Less showy, more earthy; his loner cop provides the perfect counterpoint to Lucas.
Scott keeps the pace tight with a well-structured script and some judicious editing that manages to keep the film treading the fine line between drama and high-tension shoot-outs.
A weakness, unfortunately, is the film's tendency to feel like a smorgasbord of riches. One feels as if they've eaten too much, and that the curried eels and the cr?me brulee might look good on the plate but don't sit well together in the stomach. Crowe gets a useless subplot involving an estranged wife, and the way that Lucas receives the celebratory treatment is a bit sickening considering the number of people that died as a result of his criminal ways.
But American Gangster remains a well-made and lavish crime epic. All the elements are there, it's just a shame that they don't quite add to a cohesive whole, and that the film never reaches the giddy heights of invention that its predecessors in the genre managed with ease.
The Peoples' Reviews
Your rating & reviewRate / Review this movie
Rate and/or review
Following the death of his employer and mentor, Bumpy Johnson, Frank Lucas (Washington) establishes himself as the number-one importer of heroin in Harlem. Lucas cunningly buys heroin directly from the source in South East Asia during the Vietnam War; and he devises a clever strategy of smuggling the narcotics into the United States; making his stash the most superior product available in Harlem.
Lucas proceeds to establish an alliance with the New York Mafia to ensure his position as Harlem king-pin. Meanwhile, there is a dedicated and honest cop; Richie Roberts (Crowe) who heads up a joint narcotics task force with the help of the Federal government to target Lucas’s crime syndicate and take him down.However, Roberts has his own problems - battling a crippling divorce, corrupt police colleagues, and his penchant for the ladies. Roberts has enough to keep him busy, not to mention passing the bar (studying law at night-school). Moreover, Roberts and Lucas (Washington) both survived to tell their tales to Hollywood.
The problem is that there is something missing from the story; something that leaves the viewer questioning. In today’s climate, audiences want more than warm-fuzzys and happy-packaged endings. And that’s all this film can offer; nothing but smoke and mirrors.
Although this film had some dark subject matter; it is little wonder why the Oscars were awarded to films that had more depth, more grit, more realism, and more truth. ‘American Gangster’ is good, but just isn’t that good.Hide
BY Brian1 superstar
that it was based on fact gave this story a element of "must see".
It tells of some of the interesting aspects of NY crime in days gone by, such that contributed to the city being the most dangerous on earth back then.
Whilst seeming like just another in this genre, the black rather than Italian, who briefly topped the gang scene made the difference.
The film is OK and certainly very watchable. But where's the bite? Where's the angle? The story is told as predicatably and as contrived as possible. Any interest comes from that it's a "true story"... otherwise American Gangster is dull, and shows little creativity or energy. Crowe sank to the same level - the most boring I've seen... More him.
You could see it, but really, why would you. You've seen it all before. I don't recommend.Hide
Also, Crowe looks out of practice (a little like his cousin Jeff towards the end of is tenor with NZ Cricket) and is Denzel the most one dimensional actor of the generation? must we see him play the exact same emotionless, hard talking character in every movie he stars in?Hide
it's a type movie where you're eyes are constantly glued to the screen keepin you in suspense throughout the whole movie. it's drama-based, but has a bit of a thrill ride and some action as well. you can't ask for more with this movie. everytime it smak'd the build up with the climax, it just doubled up for more. you couldn't ask for a better lead character here, too. denzel was the man... More in this movie. i mean he practically sold it. this is him at his best. the character he played was unpredictable, man. one moment he's all cool, calm and respectful, next minute he's guns a blazing, poppin people's heads, gettin all crazy from out of nowhere. man, he even had me freakin out. i was like "what the... can he just do that?", and even though he was a big time drug-lord, you just couldn't help but sympothize with him in alot ways, especially when he went down. neway.... definitely worth every penny, 10/10 from meHide