MPAA Rated – R
It’s 2:37 Long
A Review by:
- The Dude on the Right
Movie Stats & Links
||Denzel Washington, Russell Crowe, Josh Brolin, Cuba Gooding Jr.
||For goodness sake, leave them at home.
||If she can deal with some gratuitous violence.
||A good sex scene and a ton of nudity.
||There really isn’t any chasing.
||A chuckle or two.
||Frank with his brothers at the diner.
||At the diner scene when Frank says, “So, what was I talking about?”
The opening scene in “American Gangster” kind of tells it all as Frank Lucas’ (Denzel Washington) boss/mentor/father figure, Bumpy Johnson, begins to lament the demise of America as the grocery stores become supermarkets, and the smaller stores with customer service become superstores with none. Bumpy then seems saddened in the idea of buying direct from the manufacturer, thus cutting out the middleman, and selling the same product at lower prices. However, as Bumpy was lamenting, you could almost see the wheels spinning inside the head of Frank Lucas, and spin they did as he took the legacy of Bumpy and turned it into an empire. Sadly it was a drug empire, but an empire nonetheless.
“American Gangster” gives us a film adaptation of Frank Lucas, who, during the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, became a heroin kingpin in New York City, and as the movie portrays, even more powerful than the mob. Using the knowledge he gained from Bumpy, Frank quickly realized that to really make money in the drug trade, all he needed to do was cut out the people in the middle and buy directly from the manufactures. So he went to Vietnam, and while our troops were fighting, he was meeting with a drug lord to buy factory direct, found people who would store the heroin in the coffins of American soldiers coming back from Vietnam (and paying them well it seems), and then developed a distribution ring that made him a lot of money. The movie portrays him not getting high on his own supply, but running his operation like a business: Waking early, getting breakfast to formulate his day, meeting with his accountants, going to Sunday mass with his mother, and doing his best not to look flashy, just a businessman, a businessman who was not afraid to shoot someone who might be screwing with his operation.
On the other side of the coin is Richie Roberts (Russell Crowe), an honest cop in a not-so-honest cop world, having lots of family problems, but getting his opportunity to be honest when the feds began to develop special operations drug forces to stem the drug trade. His boss respects Richie’s being honest, in fact can’t seem to really believe it, and just wants Richie to develop a group of investigators who are honest as well and might be able to make a difference. At first the team starts investigating the obvious people, high members of the mob, but slowly Richie starts to see something different, and on a day when Frank seems to stray from his own advice (thanks in part because of a gift from his wife), Richie wonders how a black man can get better seats at the Ali-Frazier fight than a head mob boss. The wheels begin to turn, and Richie eventually gets his man, Frank.
But Richie wants more, and what better way to get it when a dude is facing life in prison being wealthy, or getting out early and being poor. Frank opts for the getting out early, but in an interesting way, not giving up those he did “business” with, but those he felt stole from him, namely a whole slew of dirty cops.
It’s weird, because at times during “American Gangster” you almost just think Frank Lucas is just a great business man, that is until he tells his brother he would kill him (and you know he would) but won’t because he is his brother. You see that Frank has learned a lot from his mentor Bumpy about giving back to the community, as well as the importance of “family” from his associations with the organized crime world. Then you see Richie, who in his heart is an honest guy, but one who can’t keep his family together, instead opting for sleeping with his lawyer and, well, just about anyone. But the important thing in this movie is that both Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe are great in their respective roles. Russell always makes Richie looke, well, just tired, and Denzel lets Frank have a natural swagger, although the scene when Frank is blaring about how people shot at his wife seemed off-kilter. Maybe that’s just me.
“American Gangster” is rated R for all of the reasons you would think. There is a lot of violence, it’s about the heroin trade so you’ve got drug use, Richie gets it on with a chick in a big way, and as was the practice, the chicks cutting the pure heroin and packaging it are naked so there’s no chance of their stealing any. As such, of course, at the movie showing I was at, a family brought their 10ish year old who was applauding at the end of the movie, although I wasn’t sure if he was clapping for his new hero, Frank, or his new hero, Richie.
Lots of great things happen during “American Gangster,” and even though the movie clocks in at over 2 ½ hours I never really got anxious in my seat. The acting is great, the movie looks great, so if your significant other can deal with some gratuitous violence, go and see a movie that will probably get more talk as we get towards the movie award nomination season.
It’s 4 ½ stars out of 5.
That’s it for this one! I’m The Dude on the Right!! L8R!!!