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Detractors of this film were fooled by the trailer.
andrewfreeley8724 October 2007
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.
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Just Average...
thisistrue12 November 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I love Denzel and Russell. They have made great movies.

This was not one of them. It doesn't deserve an 8 but it doesn't deserve a 2 either.

I'm sure it has been said already but there were too many unnecessary parts in this movie. Who cares about Richie Roberts (Crowe) custody battle? There were too many scenes concerning his divorce and custody battle. They did nothing in terms of character development except to further pound in into our heads that he is a good man.

I didn't mind the 2 1/2 hour tag but the time could've been used better. One minute Denzel is just a driver and the next he is calling his connect in Vietnam buying heroin. I understand that the movie wanted to be different but it could've fleshed out Frank Lucas's rise to power.

And boy did I feel cheated toward the end, throughout most of the film, Frank Lucas is a reserved man even going out of his way to rough up a few of his friends/family members who draw attention to themselves yet his Puerto Rican wife buys him a chinchilla coat with a matching hat and all of a sudden he is breaking his own rule? I think the wrong things were left on the cutting room floor so to speak some scenes I could have definitely done without while others seemed to be missing from the movie.

It's not a MUST SEE but it's not a waste of time.
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"My Man"
ElijahCSkuggs28 October 2007
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 scene.

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
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Surprisingly Coherent
vidarium26 October 2007
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.
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Damp Squib?
bgordon6516 November 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I was looking forward to this film, most of Denzel's films in the past few years have been exceptional. Unfortunately, this one isn't.

One comment stated the Frank Lucas life was not glamorised. It was. He's portrayed as a family man, a man with a sense of fairness, a sort of moral compass - anything he does seems to be justified someway or another. For example, he only really kills guys who have it coming, or more like men the audience are meant to dislike.

The film seems to send the message that Lucas was a successful business man - in the drugs business. Had he been in an environment earlier in life that would have taken him on a different path, he may very well have been successful in that. So we shouldn't be critical nor judge Lucas. He's a mere victim of the system. Wrong.

The guy single handedly launched the heroin trade in parts of New York and ruined thousands upon thousands of lives. It seems at times that this film must actually remind us what it's about - drugs - by throwing in the odd scene of someone injecting or overdosing every half hour.

Perhaps it's because a poor man's rise to riches has been done so often in a gangster context that I wasn't impressed with American Gangster. It's a watchable film, perhaps I'm being too hard on it. I wouldn't recommend you don't see it, just don't have high expectations.
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Professional But Derivative and Dull
Phil Worfel31 October 2007
Warning: Spoilers
If you have seen Serpico, Scarface, and The French Connection, you don't need to see American Gangster. Ridley Scott's new biopic unfortunately shows how a group of stunningly talented craftsmen can create an uninspiring, lackluster, and by-the-numbers piece of cinema. Certainly there are good moments. There is a nice verbal face off between Crowe and Washington (ala HEAT) but its appeal lies more in the power of its stars than in the power of the story. Never is there a moment when I was unaware that I was watching Crowe and Denzel.

The film makes much of the fact that this is a true story about a powerful BLACK gangster whereas other mafia-ish crime stories usually feature Italians. While this may have been an interesting counterpoint, the point is only dealt with in showing that the distinction is irrelevant. Denzel can be just as powerful a crime lord as the rest. So where's the drama?

Crowe's character is yet another, in a long line of movie cops, who is a womanizer and bad father/husband, and yet the most honest cop on the force. This never changes throughout the piece. Where's the drama?

None of this is to say that Scott and company failed at presenting the authenticity of the world and it's characters. The production design is flawless, the characterizations seem to be right on the money, and the music recalls a hipper time. Authenticity, however, does not always translate into dynamic and exciting story telling.

There are no surprises, no real twists, and the inevitable fall of Washington's character and thus his organization, is anti-climactic.

Worth watching if its free.
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A True Gangster Epic
jfcthejock25 October 2007
Warning: 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.
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Spoilers for what? Nothing interesting happens.
Grant_Price23 November 2007
Warning: Spoilers
The latest Ridley Scott/Russell Crowe collaboration reminds me a lot of Serpico (1973.) You've got the star talent (i.e. Crowe in place of Pacino), the premise of an honest policeman working nearly alone to expose corruption in the police force and the backdrop of 1970s New York to do it in. Also, like Serpico, it fails to deliver in most respects. Much of the film concerns Denzel Washington as the eponymous American Gangster Frank Lucas, a violent criminal from Harlem with a monopoly on the heroin trade in New York. Russell Crowe is Richie Roberts, the narcotics officer tasked with bringing him down. Sounds exciting doesn't it? Well it isn't. At 157 minutes long, 'Gangster was always going to have a job keeping the audience's attention for the entire time. However, it didn't even keep my attention for half the time. The various threads at the start of the film take over an hour to actually intertwine with each other, by which time I didn't care anymore. Even then, there's no payoff until around near the end with a pseudo-Godfather montage of Richie destroying Lucas' entire operation while Lucas attends church with his mother. I for one expected Lucas to go down in a blaze of frenzied violence inside the church (indeed a Denzel-Training Day death was all I was waiting for,) thus salvaging some of the previously wasted 2 hours but no, it's not that kind of film. Instead, Frank Lucas provides evidence against all the corrupt narcotics policemen in New York and gets to serve a fifth of his prison time for it. So basically the story is 'Policeman arrests baddie who rats on other baddies and goes to prison but not for long.' How disappointing.

As for the characters, Denzel Washington fluctuates from being a cool, controlled, intelligent and observant customer to a Tony Montana-esquire psychopath who repeatedly attacks his brothers and cousins if things go wrong. Indeed, the only cool instance worthy of remembrance by Lucas is where he shoots a rival without hesitation in a street in broad daylight. If only the rest of the film had been full of these little gems. Instead we are treated to the estrangement and divorce proceedings of Richie Roberts from his wife (yawn) and constant reminders that as an honest cop he has to do everything himself, with no help from the suits upstairs. Josh Brolin puts in a trite performance as one of the cops on the take, adding nothing except a homosexual moustache to the proceedings. For once Cuba Gooding Jr is competent in his role, which is the best one could hope for. Finally, the last individual who sticks in the mind long enough to form an opinion of is Armand Assante, who is actually rather good in his hunting jacket and Vito Corleone mannerisms. Oh, and special mention has to go to the Vietnamese heroin plantation owner who looks like a drag queen in a suit.

Overall I would not waste my time with this again even if there are a couple of cool moments and the clothes look splendid. Considering the extensive hype and promise surrounding the film, the quote by Frank Lucas "The loudest man in the room is also the weakest man in the room" sums up American Gangster nicely.
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A cops and gangsters classic!
JR .26 October 2007
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.
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a big, intense American crime movie, led by stars and director in top form
MisterWhiplash4 November 2007
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 process.

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.
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Ridley Rocks!
dianewds2 November 2007
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.
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Boring and way too long
krycek194 January 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Yeah, yeah I know its Ridley Scott and it will probably win a few academy awards and he made Alien and Gladiator and bla bla bla but when I watched this with a friend, we almost fell asleep from boredom. It's suppose to be a gangstermovie but all they do is talk, talk, talk. Almost no action at all. Russel Crowe displays wooden acting which he has done in all his movies except from "Proof of life" and "LA Confidential". Denzel Washington doesn't look anything like the real Frank Lucas. He is way too handsome. And he plays the character too much like a nice guy and here is why that is a problem.

I read an interview with the real Richie Roberts, who caught Frank Lucas, who don't understand why is Lucas represented as a good man in this film. According to Roberts, he killed more black people than the KKK, ruined several black families and he was a drug-lord. He was a murderer and a criminal, nothing more. And Ridley Scott makes him seem like a businessman who just happens to be moving cocaine and heroine.

And the real tragedy of it all, was that Frank Lucas only got 7 years in prison, instead of the 70 years, he was sentenced to serve. Because he testified against cops that took bribes from him. And now, because of the movie he sees himself as a hero and a star. And that's how the audience will sea him as well. Nice going Ridley: you made a very, very, very long and really, really, really boring movie, making a murderer and a drug-lord seem like Martin Luther King.

I know nobody will agree with me, but even the greatest moviedirectors in the world, makes bad movies from time to time and this is one of them.
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Drab, lacklustre and uninspired
Sacha Van Spall5 November 2007
Warning: Spoilers
If it were a made for TV movie it would be passable, but as a star studded feature film it falls flat on its' face.

I got no feeling of the time (early 70's), the place (Harlem/New York/New Jersey/Vietnam etc) nor of the characters. You would find more character, depth and sense of place in any episode of Sopranos/Hill Street Blues/Homocide:LOTS. It could easily have been set in the 80's, 90's or even 2000 for all it was worth. There was scant regard to the richness of the environments or the period.

There was very little insight into Washington's character except for a few sparse flashbacks and intermittent lazy exposition and we're not expected to dislike him in any way. By the end everyone is happy and laughing and the moral we're offered is, corrupt cops are bad and get punished whilst Frank Lucas, a cold blooded killer, torturer, crime lord and major league heroin importer is a likable person with a bit of a temper occasionally who only has to serve a measly 15 years having had his sentence reduced from 70yrs aided by the Crowe's character turned defense lawyer!?!?! Most of the supporting characters lacked depth and the subplots didn't really add much to the overall story. As each one dies or just doesn't appear any longer, there is very little sense of loss. Most are just cardboard cutout characters.

There were so many missed opportunities to make this an engaging and enlightening story about an evil man, but Ridley Scott seems to have lost his punch. This is no 'Casino', in fact you would be better off re-watching 'New Jack City' than getting a sore arse sitting through this 2 hours and 45 minutes of two dimensional tedium.

IMDb voters need to get a grip and think more about rating films instead of giving every second rate film like this a 7 or higher rating.
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excellent story, flawless performances
AdiVrj29 October 2007
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 less guts.

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.
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A Solid Film
alexkolokotronis18 February 2008
Unfortunately from listening to everyone else I was expecting some sort of masterpiece. That is not what I believe what I got. Yet it was still a very good movie.

The acting performances were also good but not great. Denzel Washington gave a very good performance but not Oscar worthy, it felt like I have seen this before from him. Russell Crowe just was not given the room to actually act. I wish Crowe would have been given more of an opportunity to show off his talent. Josh Brolin gave the best performance as a corrupt police officer. He displayed perfectly the corrupt cop blackmailing both sides for the benefit of himself. I do not really understand the Oscar nomination for Ruby Dee playing Frank Lucas mother. She barley even had a cameo in this movie. It is kind of sad to see how far Cuba Gooding Jr. has fallen not having much of a role in this movie.

What really kept this movie up and kind of brought it down was its steady flow and writing. It did show you some interesting things such as going to Vietnam and having a very unique and surprising place to smuggle in the drugs. Yet as I mentioned before the performances were good but not great because of the writing. I attribute this to the writing. Some of the writing did not allow some of the actors to expand as much as they could have on their roles.

Also the directing was very good but not great. Ridley Scott did show some interesting scenes and had good camera shot. The cinematography was good as well. Yet because the performances were not to great that brings him down because his job to guide arguably two of the best actors today.

This movie was a bit over-hyped but I would still recommend it. This probably could have received more recognition from the Oscars though.
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Keeps The Viewer Involved And Interested....Well Done.
AudioFileZ26 October 2007
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.
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Top 250! Are you kidding?
carped5 December 2007
Warning: Spoilers
This movie is a total failure. Totally devoid of any cinematic merits.Waste of money and talent. Seriously, I struggle to find in it just a single redeeming feature.

First, the script and structure. It's 1 hour long exposition when a viewer is just bombarded with very thinly motivated events. Frank Lucas is the bodyguard, driver and sometime enforcer of some crime boss, then his boss dies. Lucas makes a phone call to Thailand and goes there and gets wads of horse. All of sudden without any interference from drug-overlords he becomes a major purveyor of best heroin, which sells for half-market price. At the same time, a story told million times before about a good cop within corrupt police environment, who has some family troubles. Secondly, the acting. Washington just can't play mean types. He lacks a mean streak in him. It's simply unconvincing, especially when in crisis he starts mumbling something frenetically. And this guy shoots a competing gangster in the face in the middle of busy street (again without any consequences). And Crowe just doing his Crowe thing - nervous wrecked action man thing. Thirdly, pretentious attempts to give the whole thing some historical context. Constant reminders of Vietnam war going on in the background. It's so cliché. Was it so necessary to pipe this thing every 15 min or so of valuable screen time? And last but not least, putting an air of deep message behind this razzle-dazzle with statements about America, American dream, etc. It's been done many many times before with much more effective results.
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Nowhere Close To a Classic Gangster Flick
eric26200319 January 2009
Warning: Spoilers
For those who are looking for a equally compelling gangster movie like "Goodfellas" or "Donnie Brasco", well keep looking, because "American Gangster" simply doesn't fit the bill. It's like buying a new car, that looks great on the outside and everything looks like it's in tact. Then when you start, the motor, smoke comes pouring out, the tires become flat, and eventually, the engine dies out. That's how I felt about this movie. The critics hyped about how wonderful this movie is, only to end up with a bag full of nothing.

My dismay is in so many locations, I don't know where to start. Right off the band wagon, it was a bad idea from the beginning to let Ridley Scott take the director's seat for this project. His storytelling abilities truly leaves much for him to be desired. A story of this high level should have been handled more carefully,pulling away no stops, with a superb cast of talented performers, this movie had potential to up there with "The Godfather" and "Goodfellas".

Within the parameters of "American Gangster",there are several hooks and angles in the real story, the creative team sorely neglected. For example, Frank Thomas (Denzel Washington) was completely illiterate that even counting seemed foreign to him. Pretty good for a man who has a fortune of over $250 billion. And his way of counting was by scales. So let me ask you, why did Lucas sport a calculator?

The relationship between Lucas and his accomplice Bumpy Johnson goes on without any reference. Johnson was one of Harlem's most infamous and well-known residents. Lucas shared an alliance with Johnson for a span of almost 15 years as a loyal and dedicated friend. Johnson was like a second father to Lucas. Other stuff that was ignored includes Lucas' upbringing or how he hired a hit-man to take one of his brother's out. Other side stories that were neglected include his young cousin killed by the KKK or his transition from a petty thug, to a powerful drug-lord. Or even the era when there was time when Harlem was a city you were proud to call home, only to see it crumble under his wing with fear and terror.It was during the 1960's and 1970's that the city of Harlem took a turn for the worst which had potential to be a compelling story. But thanks to the carelessness of the crew, we never get to see the whole picture.

These stories plus others should have been there and I hold blame to producer Brain Glazer for not including these stories that I aforementioned. It left me lost in the dark without a clue. It's obvious that no research was done before the filming commenced. I was also appalled that such a talented performer like Cuba Gooding Jr. as the infamous drug lord Nicky Barnes be demoted to just a semi-cameo performance. But he's not the only one who's been let down here. The cast had a strong talent pool and yet they ended up playing mostly watered down performances. No blame to the actors, but to the crew behind this madness. I think the handling of this movie would have been better if Martin Scorsese or Spike Lee took over the directors seat. Then I would have seen potential.

Overall this film was far too patted to be a riveting film. The motives behind the crew was that the movie was destined to keep you entertained rather than tracing the story based on fact. The key to great film is sitting at the dinner table with friends and family discussing it with those surrounding you. After this movie was over, my friends and I had nothing to say, because this movie offers just that, absolutely nothing.
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The Black Godfather (Classic Denzel)
t-travis24 October 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Where to start?

This is a plot driven movie, so if you're expecting a shoot-em' up Arnold hack job, one, you should seriously consider changing your taste in movies, and two, a mindless shoot-em'-up would be near heresy considering the acting pedigree of Denzel Washington and Russel Crowe.

Denzel offers the stoic, eloquent, controlled fury Denzel is famous for. Thankfully most of the movie revolves around him. Crowe's role is rather small by Russel Crowe standards.

We follow Denzel's character, Frank Lucas, as he begins to establish his heroin empire in Harlem, meanwhile Crowe's character, is mainly concerned with him piecing together Lucas' ingenious smuggling ring as he heads up the newly formed drug enforcement police. Denzel's shockingly vengeful character is built throughout the movie, while Crowe's is sparse, as it should be.

There is an interesting side story battle between Denzel and a particularly corrupt cop, who himself has a very interesting end.

The movie stays true to the actual story, and the period, as unbelievable as it is At first you find yourself rooting for the bad guy, however Scott carefully details the effect Lucas' organization is having on the community, which then lends you to appreciate the job of the police.

The end of the movie wraps up nicely with a summary of all the main characters' endings, and some very interesting facts about the original 70's era drug enforcement cops. The most interesting being that three-quarters where convicted on corruption charges!

Another Denzel classic!!!
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Non-Authentic Gangster
spmayer338 November 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Plot line: 1) Small time thug makes it big within a crime family (which the movie doesn't explain, the audience is just supposed to accept this- wouldn't other top guys in the family have an issue with the driver being the new lead? I think so) 2) Gets involved with drugs 3) Makes a lot of money from drugs 4) Has a beauty queen wife (oh my god, she almost got caught in an attempted hit on her Mafioso husband! No way! What an interesting, ground-breaking twist!) 5) Gets caught by the most stereotypical cop in film today (bad father, womanizer, the cop with a conscience) Anyone seen this before? Go to Netflix and look at the "Crime drama" category, and there's an endless list of films that follow this same plot line, but are much much better.

The movie had way too many loose ends and unfinished details that the audience can usually deal with, but not when there are so many (ex. How does Lucas always seem to catch his guy in Bangkok right by the phone, twice in a crowded bar, and once in a massage parlor, every time he calls?). There are so many other examples of these unrealistic, at first annoying, but by the end film-ruining, instances if you'd like more.

If people weren't praising this film as Oscar worthy, I would say that it's on OK film. But because people seem to be so taken by it, the film is that much worse.

It's Blow for black people, with worse acting, casting, plot lines, suspense, and dialog. I would rather chew a foot off than see this movie again.
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OK, not great.
kefahuchi27 October 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Well thank god Denzel pulls a solid performance out of the bag because without it this film would fall apart.

The story/plot is really too broken up and episodic to fit Ridley Scott's direction. Characters come and go without any real feel for how they develop the story or flesh out the main characters; if you want an example watch out for Frank's baseball playing nephew. It just makes no sense. Then have a think about how Scorcese or De Palma would have handled these characters.

I'm not knocking Scott and the two leads do their job pretty well. It just needed to be a much narrower story. Then all those little touches and neat sequences (Washington's immaculate outfits or Crowe following the $20k bait) would nail the story in your mind's eye.
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Long on production value, thin on story
MoviePopcornCostsTooMuch12 November 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Too much story told in too little time. Cinematography, production design, casting are all incredible and make this picture worth seeing. Only miscast person is Russell Crowe who can play an overweight, gray haired tobacco chemist in his 50s but can't pull off a New York accent if his life depended on it. And did Crowe even get his hair cut for this movie? Denzel pulls off the bad guy and the DOP had some flair at certain points. Midway thru the movie we move through 1970s New York with mood and grist but other scenes are shot like they're out of an MOW.

If I could vote 6.5 I would but its more weighted towards a 6 than a 7. Most of all, its so disappointing. Anytime you can shoot a period movie in New York AS New York with apparently unlimited money with all the time for casting and you come up with this you've got to be disappointed. The whole Kramer vs Kramer subplot with Crowe's character and his ex-wife could have been left on the cutting room floor. My guess is that with Crowe doing so many Ridley Scott films in a row that he's got too much power on set and in the editing room. Combine that with a director with limited narrative skills and you've got a loser. Crowe steals the scene near the end where they finally meet face to face and I'm sure if it was edited differently, it easily could have been Denzel's scene to steal.
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Two Great Actors Elevate This Scarface-Like Story
ccthemovieman-17 March 2008
The best thing this movie had going for it - which is no surprise - is the acting duo of Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe. How many bad movies do you see with either of those guys starring in them? Not many, and neither actor disappoints here. Both play fascinating guys, Washington, a big gangster ("Frank Lucas") and Crowe, an honest cop ("Richie Roberts")

This movie reminded me a lot of the '83 "Scarface" film in which Tony Montana (Al Pacino) rises from the bottom up to be a big drug lord, only to have things crumble big-time. We see a similar tale here with "Lucas," except that his fall is sudden in this story, unlike Pacino's character.

Director Ridley Scott and photographer Harris Savides also give us a slick- looking film, very pretty spots and stylishly-directed.

The story wasn't quite as good as the people who photographed it and acted in it. It's still a good one in that it entertains. I was never bored despite the two- and-a-half-hour length of it. I was a bit confused in the first 25 minutes but things straightened out after that.

The supporting cast in here is very deep with a lot of familiar faces, going all the way back to 83-year-old Ruby Dee. A new, young face - Lamari Nadal - is a real beauty. She plays Frank's wife, who is a lot nicer character than the one Michelle Peiffer played in "Scarface."

A key to whether you enjoy this or not - if you haven't seen it - might be your expectations. Know in advance there is not a ton of action in this tough crime movie and don't listen to all the hype that this is "the best film of the year." Just expect a decent movie with good acting and instead of a lot of blood and guts, and you should enjoy it. That's how I looked at it, and it worked for me. It was entertaining enough for me that I'd watch it again.
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Thoroughly mediocre
daniel charchuk14 January 2008
This is basically a paint-by-numbers crime drama, and I didn't like it much at all. Not only is it just repeating themes and story lines that have been done ad nauseum in older, better films, but it brings absolutely nothing new to the table. The characters are all very conventional, unsurprising, and totally bland. Any attempt to add depth into these one-dimensional, shadowy figures comes across as very obvious and totally disingenuous. Crowe's character is occasionally interesting, but he soon reverts to the "womanizing boy scout" that is too natural, and, thus, not natural at all. Denzel is just playing Denzel, there's no hint of danger or hostility in his performance, even when he's performing criminal acts. You get the sense that he could stop selling drugs and coach a football team. The dialogue is all very obvious and to-the-point, the sets and costumes are loud and garish and, again, far too obvious, and the direction is uninspired and largely unremarkable. It's a solidly made, but thoroughly mediocre mob tale.
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Great Story, Interesting Characters & Superb Acting
seymourblack-110 August 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Any movie that runs for 157 minutes needs to be exceptionally gripping in order to keep its audience fully engaged from start to finish but that's just what "American Gangster" manages to do. Its story about the rise and fall of a Harlem drug lord is extraordinary because he's home grown (rather than the usual Mafioso) and achieves his success primarily by using his business acumen. The fact that he's a fascinating character provides a consistent level of interest throughout and the knowledge that the events depicted are based on a true story gives the whole undertaking even more substance.

Depictions of a series of developments in the lives of both the American gangster and the narcotics detective who eventually becomes determined to bring him to justice, provide an effective means of telling the story and also work well in highlighting the different characteristics of the two men who are both principled and both flawed in their different ways. The period in which the action is set (the early 1970s) is very accurately evoked and Ridley Scott's disciplined direction ensures that the switching of focus from one character to the other never creates confusion or interrupts the momentum of the narrative.

Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington) who'd worked as a driver for Harlem crime boss Ellsworth "Bumpy" Johnson (Clarence Williams 111) takes over the running of the gang after his mentor suddenly dies of a heart attack and soon builds his own empire by taking a very innovative approach to his drug dealing business. Bumpy had observed that local legitimate businesses were no longer being run by families because increasingly, middlemen were being cut out so that the suppliers could maximise their profits. Using the same principle, Lucas flies to Southeast Asia where he makes deals with local suppliers and military personnel so that he can import heroin into the United States in the coffins of soldiers who'd been killed in the Vietnam War. His scheme works perfectly because the product that he markets as "Blue Magic" is twice as pure as anything else that's available and is sold at half the price.

New Jersey police detective Richie Roberts (Russell Crowe) is despised by his colleagues who treat him with contempt for turning in $1,000,000 of unmarked notes that he'd recovered from a car used by a drug dealer and is also hated by his ex-wife because of his infidelity and his failure to be a decent father to his son. When his partner dies from an overdose of "Blue Magic", he's given the opportunity to head up a special squad to try to bring the local drug trade under control.

Lucas' spectacular success in selling heroin enables him to use the massive profits to expand the rest of his operation and buy a mansion in New Jersey into which he moves his mother and brothers. He gets married to a Puerto Rican beauty queen who he meets at one of his clubs and at this point, his future looks good. Lucas' success had been partially attributable to his belief in being conservatively dressed and maintaining a low profile but one fateful night, at a top boxing match, when he fails to adhere to both these practices, he attracts the attention of detective Richie Roberts and from that point onwards, his fortunes go into reverse.

Frank Lucas was a man who professed to believe in honesty, integrity, hard work and family values. He was certainly good to his family, generally courteous in his day to day dealings and an astute businessman but was also ruthless and capable of some appalling brutality. In a wonderfully measured performance, Denzel Washington conveys the dignity, intensity and complexity of this charismatic character and makes it clear that Lucas' principles and beliefs were based on what he's learned in the days before he took over the gang from Bumpy Johnson.

Russell Crowe is also very good as the detective who's honest and hardworking but is detested with equal venom by both his colleagues and his ex-wife. The supporting cast also do well with Josh Brolin, Cuba Gooding Jr. and Armand Assante standing out.

It's the characters, the strength of the story and some great acting that ultimately makes "American Gangster" so compelling and the fact that it doesn't have to rely on chases and explosions to keep its audience's attention testifies to this.
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