Saturday, November 3, 2024

American Gangster

Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe topline this 70s period piece crime drama, and they rule every inch of the screen. At least until supporting players like Josh Brolin or Ruby Dee steal the light. As directed by Ridley Scott (whose Blade Runner the Final Cut is also in select theaters) American Gangster feels epic in length and scope.
While there is typical gangster violence the film doesn't warrent the kind of repeat viewing of Goodfellas or Departed. As a procedural - Crowe is the good guy making a federal case against mobster Washington - the film never grips you like Zodiac. That being said, American Gangster does attach a firm hand on your viewing conscious. The production values are top notch across the board and the story floats by rapidly never announcing its 160 minute running time.
Washington and Crowe are two men with vastly different value systems and yet they seem to be cut from the same bolt of cloth. Crowe's New Jersey cop Richie Roberts has a thing about honesty. In one scene, much to the dismay of his partner, Roberts insists on turning into evidence nearly a million dollars of untraceable cash. Washington playing real life drug dealer Frank Lucas (google him - Lucas' real story far exceeds the one told here) has his own gangster moral code that includes looking out for his rather large family as well as providing superior heroin on Gotham streets at the best prices. Lucas circumvented the mafia by importing his own stash of pure smack from Asia (Vietnam) in the coffins of American soilders.
American Gangster concentrates on the cat and mouse game between Lucas and Roberts. The film only brings themn together at the end, and then it is a meeting of like minds, and the acting vibe will remind movie fans of the De Niro / Pacino confrontation in the middle of Heat.


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