Last year, it was Martin Scorcese that rocked the gangster-movie lover’s hearts with a duel between a mobster-cop and a cop-mobster. This year, another brilliant director, takes his turn to honor the genre. Ridley Scott’s “American Gangster” gives us Denzel vs. Russel and turns a fascinating real life story to a fascinating 157 minutes at the movies.
Washington plays Frank Lucas, a sidekick to the Harlem mobster Bumpy Johnson, who decides to honor his boss’s legacy after the latter dies by creating his own drug empire under the mafia’s and the cops’ radars.
In an early set-up scene Bumpy and Frank stroll the neighbourhood, when the 62 year old discusses the changes that threaten the old world order. “Who are they to cut out the middleman and lower the cost?”, he ponders in the sight of a discount store. The new was coming and Frank took it in mind. He then went and became a certified gangster under the nose of the italian mob lords. He brought the product straight from the supplier in Asia using military airplanes (!) and sold it half price around the streets. Business-like he was one step ahead in the crime world.
Crow is Richie Roberts, an honest cop in a crooked world but a lousy husband and father. When he returns a million dollars in drug money he gets the “boy-scout” stigma around his colleagues. While he tries to finish night law school and become an attorney he gets assigned to head the newfound narcotics department. His first targets are all white until he gets Lucas’s number figured out and the chase is on.
A great script introduces us step by step to the two main characters as they head towards their first meeting. Finally it puts them face to face, two clever men that know why they’re there and what they have to do from then on. Ridley Scott’s visual narration is nothing less than perfect, with a few but very strong action scenes and a lot of heavy confrontation between the many characters. Next to the great leads, Josh Brolin steals a couple of moments with his genuinely asshole performance.
This is a movie that treats its main characters as human beings, never taking their myth too far, constantly facing them with decisions that give them depth. Its a gangster film that goes beyond its genre mostly because it’s based in real events that provide a firm background.
Overall, a great movie, as much engaging as entertaining.
||Release Date: November 2, 2007
Rated: R for violence, pervasive drug content and language, nudity and sexuality.
Running Time: 157 min.
Cast: Denzel Washington, Russell Crowe, Josh Brolin, Chiwetel Ejiofor
Director: Ridley Scott
Screenplay: Steven Zaillian, Mark Jacobson
Studio: Universal Pictures
Official Website: AmericanGangster.net