American Gangster (2007) 3/5 (2)


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Rating: The Good – 69.8
Genre: Crime
Duration: 157 mins
Director: Ridley Scott
Stars: Denzel Washington, Russell Crowe, Chiwetel Ejiofor

First off, American Gangster is not even close to being in the same bracket as Goodfellas (as some over-zealous critics exclaimed on its release) but this movie is actually a good showing from a director that has blown hot and cold these last 30 years or so. Russell Crowe stars as a New Jersey narcotics officer, who after becoming a pariah to his peers for turning in a million dollars in drug money, is given the opportunity to set up his own squad of straight-shooting undercover operatives. The man he targets as the king-pin of the east coast drug rackets is a seemingly self-made African-American gangster Frank Lucas, who modelled his organisation on the mafia, so successfully in fact that he became the Italians’ biggest supplier. Denzel Washington plays Lucas and as usual brings all his charisma to the role while Crowe handles his role of the good cop with an assured touch and for the most part outshines Washington. The story zips in many directions (with the best sub-plot undoubtedly being that which involved Josh Brolin’s crooked New York cop) but Scott keeps it together despite the somewhat rushed ending. Steven Zallian’s script is extremely strong and gives the police investigation in particular an enjoyable level of realism. There are some great ideas incorporated into the story also that allow important junctures to be realised in both an original and swift manner (with the fur coat being the best example). American Gangster is a long film at 2 hours and there are threads that could’ve been dispensed with all together but, that said, it’s worth looking at the extended edition (what? Ridley Scott releasing an extended edition? never!) for Clarence Williams III’s decent turn as Bumpy Johnson.

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