After a ferry is bombed in New Orleans, an A.T.F. agent joins a unique investigation using experimental surveillance technology to find the bomber, but soon finds himself becoming obsessed with one of the victims.
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.
A man believes he has put his mysterious past behind him and has dedicated himself to beginning a new, quiet life, before he meets a young girl under the control of ultra-violent Russian gangsters and can't stand idly by.
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
During the family gathering in North Carolina, one of Frank Lucas' cousins refers to Stevie as throwing as hard as Bob Gibson and being able to throw "95 MPH." This was the era before baseball pitches were timed with radar guns and no one would have been able to tell with that amount of certainty how hard anyone threw a baseball. See more »
At the end of the closing credits, Frank Lucas approaches the camera and fires one shot from a pistol directly at the audience. See more »
The 175 min.-unrated extended version includes approx. 19 minutes of additional footage not seen in the theatrical release. Among the highlights are:
A flashback with Frank Lucas and Bumpy Johnson on a boardwalk
A short scene showing Richie Roberts acquiring office space for his new narcotics task force (this added scene follows immediately after Toback assigns Roberts to head up the federal investigation using honest cops of Roberts' choice)
A nighttime scene where Roberts and his team tail a drug pusher with a stash of Blue Magic to an auto body shop; the next morning, Spearman strikes a deal with the shop owner "Scott" over the phone, which leads up to Roberts under disguise dropping off $20,000 to get a supply of Blue Magic
In the Bronx, right after Spearman drops off Roberts and informs him that he'll circle the block, an extended scene takes place where Roberts sees both Scott take off in his Jeep and Spearman getting blocked by a broken-down truck, unable to reach Roberts. In desperation, Roberts stops a yellow cab and shows his badge, argues with the uncooperative cabbie to use it, and eventually decks the cabbie in the face to take control of the cab and quickly pursues the escaping drug pusher, ending with Roberts following the unsuspecting Scott on foot.
After the Christmas visit with Charlie Williams, there's an extended scene with Frank and Eva back at their home, where Frank reminisces how Bumpy gradually stayed more and more at home towards the end of his life because of constant police surveillance. He then asks Eva if she wants to go out, nevertheless.
An extended ending in 1991 where Lucas upon release from jail is picked up by Roberts, and the two make their way towards the intersection of 116 St. and Frederick Douglass Blvd, conversing while drinking lattes.
a big, intense American crime movie, led by stars and director in top form
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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