Armed men hijack a New York City subway train, holding the passengers hostage in return for a ransom, and turning an ordinary day's work for dispatcher Walter Garber into a face-off with the mastermind behind the crime.
Following the death of his employer and mentor, Bumpy Johnson, Frank Lucas establishes himself as the number one importer of heroin in the Harlem district of Manhattan. He does so by buying heroin directly from the source in South East Asia and he comes up with a unique way of importing the drugs into the United States. As a result, his product is superior to what is currently available on the street and his prices are lower. His alliance with the New York Mafia ensures his position. It is also the story of a dedicated and honest policeman, Richie Roberts, who heads up a joint narcotics task force with the Federal government. Based on a true story. Written by
American Gangster may be the most boring, unoriginal, flaccid film that Ridley Scott has yet to make.
Coming from the man who created Alien, Gladiator, Black Hawk Down, and Blade Runner, it boggles my mind as to why this film was not infused whatsoever with his signature style, pacing, and panache.
This film tries so hard to be a sweeping epic crime saga, but in the end, cannot hold a candle to any Martin Scorsese work, for instance.
American Gangster is dull. Its also boring, pointless, flat, limp, and completely cliché ridden.
A combination of Serpico, Dead Presidents, Donnie Brasco, Goodfellas, Carlito's Way, and what have you... this film ends up being a mishmash, using mostly the boring parts of the aforementioned films.
None of the characters of very engrossing, with Denzel Washington's character coming across as inauthentic and about as deep as a puddle of water in the Gobi.
Interestingly enough, the film has no major glaring flaws, a testament to Ridley Scott's experience and craft. The script is acceptable, but lacking any style or idiosyncrasy and lacking any real depth. The story has no message, no meat - its just a random story; even having it based on real events gave it no gravitas. The acting is also acceptable, but lacking any bravado. Crowe is his likable credible self, showing flashes of energy - but unfortunately his character is nothing but a poor man's Frank Serpico. Denzel somehow totally misses the mark. His character is seriously underwritten, and Denzel gives us one note for almost 3 hours - and that is mostly of his now trademark "self-righteous African American". Despite being the "bad guy" in the film, Denzel does not give us a true villain. If the moral ground of this character is supposed to be grayed, giving us an anti-hero, its not. At least not sufficiently to give Denzel proper ammo to work with. What we get is a murderer and drug dealer, who is not such a bad guy because he buys a white man's mansion for his mother. Somebody please hold the bucket whilst I puke in it.... The rest of the supporting cast is also serviceable, but like the leads, lacks any true punch. One exception is Josh Brolin, who gives the one memorable turn as a crooked cop. The look of the film is interesting - a kind of grayish beige-ish wash out... as if you are looking at "cleaned up" 70's footage. However, like everything else in the film, the camerwork lacks the ballet and balls of Ballhaus or Richardson, for instance. Considering how Ridley Scott has taken the visuals of most his films to the limits, its a major disappointment that he decided to make the aesthetics of this film to be one dimensional.
The generic title of this film should have been a red-flag that American Gangster was going to be a flat, cliché-d, overlong flaccid crime "epic", with no interesting visuals, a boring pointless story, and characters devoid of any interest.
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