Movie Review: American Gangster – Starring Denzel Washington & Russell Crowe

Watch American Gangster via Amazon Instant VideoMovie: American Gangster (R)
Released: November 2nd, 2007
Runtime: 2 hr. 37 min.
Ticket Price: $7.50 Matinee
Refreshments: Large Popcorn & Large Sprite
Starring: Denzel Washington, Russell Crowe, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Cuba Gooding, Jr. & Josh Brolin
Director: Ridley Scott

Rating: Worth a Full Price Ticket –

Synopsis: The story of Frank Lucas, who started out as a chauffeur for Harlem’s top mobster and rose to power after his boss’ death. He used his own intelligence and a strict code to become the inner city’s biggest crime boss. A cop, Richie Roberts, tries to curtail the changes taking place in organized crime and bring Lucas to justice.

Review: American Gangster is based on the Mark Jacobson New York Magazine profile of Frank Lucas, “The Return of Superfly,” which was published on August 7th, 2000. The film stars Denzel Washington (Inside Man, Training Day) as Frank Lucas, the former mob boss’ chauffeur that rose to prominence as a heroin dealer in Harlem during the early 70s.

Washington is always worth watching and in this role things are no different. He gets plenty of opportunities to flaunt his stuff, as the film is put together in vignettes that make up the whole and show Lucas’ rise to power. From the opening gunshots to sitting across the table from the man that arrested him, Washington’s portrayal is something to watch.

Russell Crowe (Cinderella Man, Gladiator) as Richie Roberts is outstanding as well. He is the ultra clean cop that ends up heading the Federal Narcotics Squad that puts Lucas away. From a cop with a fear of public speaking to sitting across from Lucas, Crowe’s portrayal shows the growth of the character. He also gets the best line of the film.

There are many shocking moments, but overall the film does a good job of showing how these two men ended up on a collision course that eventually lead to more than just the Lucas family going to prison, it sent a whole lot of cops there as well.

One of the best performances in the movie belongs to Ruby Dee (Jungle Fever, A Raisin in the Sun) as Mama Lucas. The scene where she tells her son that his wife and her will leave him, if he goes after the cops that just ripped him off, grabs you and gets more than just his attention. With just a few scenes, she makes a big impression.

Overall, American Gangster is worth a full price ticket, just wish that it moved a bit more briskly. At over 2½ hours, it never loses your attention, but its slow pace makes it seem even longer.

What did you think about American Gangster?

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Jason of New Movie Friday
1 comment… add one
  • patrick Mar 5, 2008, 2:25 pm

    American Gangster reminds me yet again what a versatile actor Russel Crowe is… plus Ridley Scott deftly leads us into loving the bad guy and disliking the good guy only to subtly flip that around by the end of the movie.

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