Watch American Gangster without preconceived ideas. While the film is long it never drags.
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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 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. 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.
Hoodfellas II: American Gangster by Richard Jeanty, Paperback | Barnes & Noble®
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. 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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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! 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.
What a nice surprise. Quinoa 4 November American Gangster seems on the surface to be what has been dubbed by some critics as "the black Scarface. 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.