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American Gangster has been really hated upon in many of the former
posts I have read. Yet it seems like they are all saying the same
thing, that Gangster didn't have enough action and was really drawn
out. Anyone who has every seen a Ridley Scott film will know that his
films are long! Blade Runner, A Good Year, Matchstick Men, Hannibal,
Black Hawk Down, Gladiator, G.I. Jane, Thelma and Louis, and Alien all
ran for at least two hours or more, so big surprise there guys. In
addition Scott didn't set out to film another scarface, he set out to
tell a story not just about Frank Lucas but rather a tale of corruption
and how pervasive it is. One user commented that this film had many
side story lines that "bloated" the story. This is completely untrue as
every "side story" is actually the overarching story about the fight
against corruption in every facet of life, even Frank Lucas attempts
several times to eradicate the corruption in his organization.
Over all this is a great film which really gets into every nook and cranny of an issue. Don't see this film if your just looking for cheap thrills, this is a thinking film about the pervasive dishonesty of our culture.
I gave this film 8 stars because i could find nothing solid that detracted from it, but rather a slew of minor details which gradually brought its score down. But I will put this film in my top films for the year, if only because I have been immensely unsatisfied with the bulk of releases this year.
Ridley Scott's new flick American Gangster was a good one. Though Im
not gonna be saying it's the best film of the year or anything like
that. It was directed well, barely any dull scenes, great acting by an
enormous cast and was really well-written. Unfortunately the story
never seemed "new" to me. I was reminded of other drug-related/crime
movies, like BLOW, CITY OF GOD, and evening TRAINING DAY....."My Man".
Though it's in the leagues as being entertaining as the above mentioned
movies, it really just never felt like I was watching a "new" story.
But speaking of story, I never knew anything about Frank Lucas, and his
story is fantastic. A black man who was more influential than his
Mafian brethren? Tell me you're kidding. Nope, he was a force in Harlem
back in the late 60s and early 70s and barely anyone knows about it.
But for me this area of the film was the only stand out part. Sure
there are other good scenes, done well, but nothing worth mentioning.
Well, scratch that, naked women workin in a drug lab was an eye-opening
Denzel Washington won the Oscar when he portrayed the crooked cop in Training Day who said "My Man" all the time. Well, in the American Gangster you got him saying this line again, and by God does he have it down. There are scenes when you know he's gonna say it, and he still pulls it off incredibly well. Denzel is one actor you really never have to worry about it in the acting department. You've got Russell "Mr. Oscar" Crowe playing the other lead, and like always, he always has the character down. He was great in this flick, the accent, the mannerisms, all of it. Though, his character's story was interesting in that he was in charge of the case to figure out who the big boy druglords were, his side story with his wife was for me the "dull" parts of the film. They were well-acted and all that, but mostly, it was just character development that isn't needed. Russell Crowe's good enough an actor to portray a struggling cop without a family problem. And also let me say Josh Brolin as the crooked cop was great. I didn't need a side-story of him doing tons of drugs and banging prostitutes....but ya know he was doing it.
American Gangster was a really good flick. It had amazing acting mixed with scenes that shed a new light on drug-trafficking....or should I say Old light. Though since there are so many other drug/crime cop films out there it seems a little been there done that. But don't let that sway you if you enjoy good movies and or crime films. And also, Frank Lucas is one hell of an interesting personality. My man. 8.5 outta 10
Watch American Gangster without preconceived ideas. While the film is
long it never drags. You don't get the sense that you've seen this
movie before. It's not Serpico. It's not The Wire. It's not The
Sopranos. While much is going on, the story is easy to follow. There is
action, but this isn't an "action movie".
Both Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe act convincingly and give depth to their characters.
The film leaves you wanting to know more about about happened to the lead characters. You care about them that much. Now *that's* film making.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Now i've heard some mixed reactions to this movie, and I must say I
don't think that. American Gangster is a perfect gangster film. A rise
and fall film, but it is done better than both Empire and Carlito's Way
put together. Where Empire fails, American Gangster prevails where
historical accuracy is needed as well as a good background story. It's
violent and sometimes shocking, but being an avid gangster/crime fan i
know that compared to others this is almost nothing.
A brilliant biopic of New York gangster Frank Lucasm the film also utilises Lucas's relationship with the Italian Mafia perfectly, giving you almost a two way view of the city's underworld. Denzel Washington excels at the part as Lucas, and Russell Crowe as the cop out to get him is almost blinding. Crowe does a great American accent, as well as portraying a cop out to just do his job but can't properly. It's a a film about Lucas's rise to fame in New York's Heroin business, and his fall due to both Crowe and police persistence.
Like with most gangster films, you are always put off by either the acting or the story. But here this is not the case, you have a true story that does not mask Lucas's violent life but rather portrays it as a life of both murder and violence. It does not glamorise his life in any way, it's a film that says criminals never get away with what they've done. Both Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe are perfect in the criminal and cop relationship.
I would say now do not listen to the negative reviews of this film, they do no justice for the film. I'd recommend this film to fans of crime flicks and those who just want a riveting film to watch.
Starting off, this probably shouldn't be grouped in as a mob film. For
one, Crowe's character is as much the lead as Denzel, this is a cops
catching the criminal movie. But also, there's not much mob, it's Frank
Lucas at the top and everyone else trying to attach to him, he's one
man and that is made very clear.
American Gangster works on numerous levels. It's in part a portrait of late 60s-early 70s Harlem and America, full of drugs and desperation and weakness, where the strong rise above the rest and the cops are dirtier than the rats. As a crime thriller it's entertaining and at 2 hours 37 minutes, never loses interest. But, maybe most surprisingly, it's also a superb character drama and study. Literally every character who steps on screen is compelling, has depth to them, has their motivations, and is tossed into conflict. For example there's a scene early on where Crowe's character Richie and his partner are searching a parked car and find a very large amount of unmarked money in the trunk. Without giving away more, it and the following scenes lead to some surprising moral and character statements by Scott. Richie's morals vs everyone else the temptation of the streets is commonly laid on him throughout the film, and thanks to Crowe's great great performance, it adds a lot to the movie.
Denzel is brilliant here. Frank Lucas, with his collected yet fiery, always powerfully menacing performance is one of the better king bosses I can think of in recent memory. When he's not talking, just the way his face is set, he totally totally gets in this character. The academy would do right to easily give him a nomination this year. I also wanted to add that while the two leads don't get on screen till the last 20 minutes, they have a long extended scene that is pure dynamite and gold. They play off each other perfectly and it's well worth the build-up, and maybe are among the highlights of each performance.
Going through supporting actors, Josh Brolin gives one of the year's most surprising performances as an insufferable and despicable dirty cop. He's so slimy, money-grubbing, and yet intelligent and an equal, he's just cunning. Cuba Gooding, Jr. is decent in his one scene, though it's hampered by being mostly unneeded. Chiwetal Ejifor makes a believable side character though he's not given as much to do, and finally I think Ruby Dee could be a sleeper Best Supporting Actress contender for her role as Mama Lucas. Every other short and thankless role I didn't mention is acted superbly here as well, it's a sign of a great director that they're all so on their game.
Ridley Scott's direction, brilliant, what can you say. He creates New York and the rats living in it to the point with fantastic attention to detail, and most of the scenes in the film are shot and constructed simply perfectly. This includes the short but brutally effective opening scene, which stands as one of the more memorable openings I've seen in a while. Actually any time there's gunplay or action, even if there isn't that much overall, it's stunning. Particularly, at the end there's a police raid scene that stands as the "holyyyy crap" sequence of the film. Going from a hallway to a heroine preparing apartment, and without revealing anything more, it's incredible, simply incredible. Remember when people were going nuts over the tracking shot gimmick in Children of Men? I felt that way about this one. If there's a god, Ridley will finally pick up his directing Oscar this year, he deserves it for this and his wide career.
American Gangster is probably one of the best cop-based films I've seen, and up there with gangster ones. It does one of the best jobs of examining the rise and fall of a crime or drug boss right from the beginning, and dives right into on the other side what it means to be a cop and to strive for something, as well as just telling an awesome and magnificently directed gangster story.
One of the year's very finest films.
American Gangster is one of the best movies i've recently seen and it
is a pleasure to watch even if you are not a gangster movies fan. The
story is more captivating than i expected i must say, following Frank
Lucas(Denzel Washington) - the afro-American drug lord who raised above
all, even the Italian mafia - and Richie Roberts(Russel Crowe), the
honest cop in a city full of corruption, sort of Frank Serpico but with
Denzel Washington delivers a marvelous performance of a man calm and patient yet heart-stopping ferocious at some points, fearless and ambitious but likable as always. His performances are always incredible, he's a great actor, the greatest afro-American actor of all time i dare to say, it's simply a pleasure to watch him in any role.
Russel Crowe delivers a good performance, he's one of the actors that never disappoint in my opinion and i think there's a great chemistry between them (Washington and Crowe) even though few scenes bring them face to face. Richie Roberts is in danger for being one of the few cops that actually do their jobs and refuse to take bribe so i think there's a big resemblance between Richie Roberts and Frank Serpico (Al Pacino 1973).
Cuba Gooding Jr. could have gotten a bigger part, or more scenes because he's a very talented actor and he proved himself many times that he's more than capable of delivering excellent performances.
The drama is less than expected but the movie is very well paced and it never gets boring even if it lasts more than two hours. Everything fits perfectly and there is an excellent antithetical presentation of the wealthy life of Frank Lucas opposite to the lives that he's drugs ruin every day, every hour, every minute...
I strongly recommend to gangster movies fans, actually to those viewers who enjoy good movies because this movie is above average and you will enjoy every second of it.
American Gangster seems on the surface to be what has been dubbed by
some critics as "the black Scarface." As Ridley Scott's new film
details, this isn't really the case aside from the point of 'rose up
from nothing became something through crime', which could be said about
almost every gangster film including the Godfather. Here Scott and
screenwriter Steve Zaillian, without calling attention to it ala Paul
Haggis, have made a film about class issues underneath the typical
gangster-movie form. Even more than the Departed, one sees as the film
goes on an environment of paradox: Frank Lucas was a low-life, a
killer, a ruthless thug, and at the same time found time to take his
mother to church every Sunday and gave out turkeys to folks in the
neighborhood while providing them enough dope to die off in the
In fact, Scarface has got nothing on Frank Lucas when it comes to moral complexity: here's a man who did rise up out of poverty, learned the stakes of gang life as a driver for the Harlem boss for fifteen years, and then after he died cut out the middle-man as an importer of the freshest product of heroin right out of Vietnam. Then through this there's a whole other level to American Gangster; Scott and Zaillian could have made it simply a saga of betrayals and investigation via Richie Roberts. But the side that one saw in Serpico is amplified here- it becomes all the more engrossing to see how the crooked cops and "honest" gangster Lucas were linked together, which also leads to an ending that amps up the interest. Lucas didn't get out like Henry Hill, but a good man all the same? Probably not (he ended up in jail again, as the film doesn't point out).
So there's a lot of story to explore, and Scott makes it one of the most invigorating, nostalgic (ironically speaking) New York crime films in years, as far as the storytelling goes. And like Heat, Scott gets a lot of mileage from his star power. Washington goes even deeper into the role of the villain than he did in Training Day- he plays him as classic family man, cold businessman, and charming man-of-the-community. He makes it so much his role that you can't imagine anyone else going down a Harlem street shooting a guy point blank in the head. And Crowe also adds some good subtlety to the piece, a flawed man with his family and someone who tries to keep his morality straight (the million dollars given in to the station) amidst total bully-crooks like Josh Brolin's "special" detective. By the time the two stars finally sit down for one scene, it's on par with De Niro and Pacino.
Why not a 10/10 or 4 stars? It is, despite a rightfully fleshed out narrative, with some unnecessary bits (Cuba Gooding Jr, what happened there?) on a two hour and forty minute picture. But Scott does make American Gangster gain momentum as it goes along and reaches a powerhouse climax that is first intense and bloody (it IS Scott after all), followed by a striking human angle. And it holds nothing on Scarface, at the end of it all, as far as being legitimately dramatic without the ham, as the actors and director click for most part on material that just needs to be told without any pretension- and with that dose of significance of real urban crime in the 1970s in NYC.
Finally a good, accurate, gangster drug-trafficking film that makes you
think. It's far from Polyanna and lets no-one group off; not gangsters
of any race or ethnicity, not cops on the take, addicts, etc. And
importantly, the story, based upon the true life story of Frank Lucas,
does not profile a stereotypical black gangster gone wrong but instead
shows an elegant, intellectual man who rises to the top of his game but
then learns something new in the end. The film is a sure-shot into the
Oscars but more importantly, for me, it's a film that is socially
responsible and imparts a thoughtful message for any viewer,especially
in light of current times.
Technically, it's got it all going on. Script,Camera, lighting,and not only par excellence from Crowe and Washington but the entire acting cast. The film uses fabulous close-ups and unbelievably good action shots. I disagree with any reviews that claim the movie is not packed with enough action or violence. How tiresome that would be! Instead, while including some of the best action/violent shots ever filmed, Mr. Ridley gives us a relevant and real-life look into the narcotics business top-to-bottom and across the board. I would far prefer to see a movie that has a dozen or so magnificently staged violent shots that dare to go deeper and translate both internal as well as external motivations as to depict real life. The film is not only entertaining; its portrayal is authentic to the real life grizzly and sometimes grayed world of crime/justice as well as didactic and amazingly...uplifting. What a nice surprise.
The story about Frank Lucas is one that proves fact is more interesting
than fiction. The fact that such a character really did exist yet I do
not remember it certainly intrigues me. I guess I was just too young at
the time it broke. Now approaching my later forties finds me longing to
research it further after seeing this movie.
I get the feeling Ridley Scott was amazed a person such as Frank Lucas was actually able to do what he did and live to tell about it. I certainly share that amazement. The care in which he tells the story serves it well. Though it's basically a gangster movie it's not particularly graphic in violence except in a few scenes. Even Denzel's and Russel's portrayals of the two central characters are not quite as dark as the usual more stereotypical gangster/cop persona...Still there is a sense of doom and danger ever present as the viewer knows neither law enforcement, government, or mafia will let this man's drug empire go on.
To sum it up I believe this is an excellent telling of a true crime story. It's intriguing, entertaining, and certainly serves as a cautionary reminder to remain vigilant in combating drugs.
By the time The French Connection hit the screens in the early
seventies, blaxploitation movie was at its peak. At the same time, as
this movie implies, a black drug dealer, Frank Lucas, was making a
fortune. This movie is, in more than one ways, a tribute to the amazing
American movie era of the seventies and a recognition of the situation
of American black people in the same period when they were strong
enough to fight for their rights but still had no place in the movies
to make their point. Frank Lucas is a character who, by completely
separating himself from the Italian Mafia and going directly to the
source, manages to build a drug empire around Harlem. And who else to
see the law is respected but the good old NYPD, only the drug squad is
over its head in corruption and abuse. It's up to one guy (Russell
Crowe) to set the record straight, make sure the streets are clean,
and, what's more important, make sure the police is clean.
This is essentially the whole plot, there are many twists and subplots that keep everything going and give the characters depth. It's true that most of this is not original. The references to The French Connection are explicit in the plot, camera work (see the dynamics that brought Friedkin's movie its well-deserved fame), characters etc. But I think that the critics who said the movie was unoriginal are missing the point. Given that the whole thing starts from the premise of a true story it was only natural that nothing would be "original". But originality can also mean the way a story is told, and I can hardly believe that this amazing package of a story was delivered by Ridley Scott. Everything is very well balanced, the movie may seem baffling at times but nothing is left to chance and every shot in this long movie has a point to make. The dialogues are very well-written and seem quite natural. The "don't look at the camera in order to appear life-like" strategy that backfired in movies such as United 93 works perfectly here. Long continuous shots (sometimes filmed with a hand-held camera) are alternated with montages giving the movie a lot of spunk; the overall editing is very good. The music could have been better but I think the reality effect this movie is trying to produce is enhanced by a more discrete soundtrack. The acting is fine, Denzel is top notch and Crowe is much more refined in his acting than the 1997 LA Confidential cop.
I think that this movie tries, and succeeds, in being an homage to American cinema of the seventies and at the same time making a point about the black community (which was the subject of abuse in The French Connection). By choosing what is regarded as a black icon of Hollywood to play the part of the paradoxically progressive Frank Lucas, Hollywood is finally beginning to learn to be politically correct without rubbing your face into it. The movie clearly shows that drugs were the only solution for a discriminated against person living in a country that was fighting an absurd war. It also clearly shows the overwhelming corruption of the system and the consequences of abuse of power when being an American gangster was more honorable than being an American "cop". Great job for Ridley Scott, I wouldn't have put my money on it but it all worked out in the end...!
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