Review of American Gangster

Review of American Gangster Directed by Ridley Scott
Rating *****

Let me start by stating up front that I hate gangster movies. I’m not a fan of the Godfather films. The characters in most films of this genre are stereotypes from the pimps, to the thugs, to the women who surround them. But I loved this film. The only reason this film wasn’t nominated for best picture was because of the recent win by The Departed.

Great films happen when there is a confluence of talents. Everyone involved in this film from the director to the actors to the screenwriter to the producer are the best at what they do. And it shows. Denzell Washington and Russell Crowe are superb. Either one of them could have been nominated for a best actor award.

This is a story of good verses evil. The evil is the character played by Denzell Washington, Frank Lucas, who rises to the top of the New York drug scene by selling a better product at a better price than the competition. He does this by going direct to the source and cutting out the middleman. The good is the character played by Russell Crowe, Richie Roberts, who goes after Lucas and eventually brings him down. Denzell does a masterful job of creating a three dimensional character who comes across as likable despite his many faults. Frank Lucas might be a charismatic character in real life, but it doesn’t make up for his crimes. Denzell balances the good and the bad within the character without glorifying him. Russell Crowe manages to do the same with his character.

This film is based on a true story and the filmmakers do an excellent job recreating the time period. They expertly weave in real life events such as the Vietnam War and the Mohamed Ali – Joe Frasier fight. Both of these events become critical to the plot of the movie. The most remarkable outcome of this story is how nearly three quarters of the narcotics division of the New York and New Jersey Police departments were convicted of illegal activities.

The bonus CD has some excellent behind the scenes and making of shorts that include interviews with the real Frank Lucas and Richie Roberts as well as interviews with all of the key players. This picture gets my vote for Best Picture of 2007.

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