Friday, March 28, 2008

American Gangster (Extended Cut)

American Gangster (Extended Cut)

Well, it is certainly better than “Kingdom of Heaven”, Ridley Scott’s other film.

American Gangster tells the story of the rise and fall of the heroin drug lord Frank Lucas that is loosely based on a real story. The film tells two stories; Lucas’s drive to become the top drug dealer in New York, and the story behind the police that want to put him in jail.

With Ridley Scott at the helm, you already know that the movie will have some quality to it. But adding Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe to the game, it becomes a better movie. These two actors are at the top of their game. While I don’t care much for Crowe as a person, he sure as hell knows how to act. He basically steals the show away from Washington. Crowe is an impressive sight to watch in the movie as the lead detective in special anti-drug law enforcement squad.

Washington is also good, but his story isn’t nearly as compelling as Crowe’s story, but he’s still amazing as the cold-blooded drug lord that has to fight crooked cops and rival drug leaders. (Chiwetel Ejiofor works with Washington again after working together in Inside Man.)

With the exception of Cuba Gooding Jr., the rest of the cast is in top form here. Yet, the only main problem with the movie is there are times when it feels a bit rushed and sometimes disjointed in a few places. Did we really need to see Frank Lucas’s wife argue with him? How many times do we need to see an arguing married couple in film? Crowe’s wife is divorcing him, big deal. Stay with the war on drugs, because that’s where the story is interesting. If I wanted to see the other stuff, I’d get married.

I liked how the film shows us how these drug leaders get their connections to drug supplies outside the US. In this movie, it is Vietnam. The Vietnam stuff is pretty fascinating to watch.

There are some really good standout scenes in this movie. One scene involves a gun battle between the cops and the drug dealers, ending in a chase through the projects. Scott does a great job with this scene. There’s another scene where we see Frank Lucas killing a rival gang member in cold blood that is just chilling. Crowe’s character has his moments as well.

With a few problems here and there, this movie is still a good movie to watch. It is an interesting look inside the early days of the War on Drugs. (The show The Wire does a good job showing us the modern war.) With a strong R-rating (U-rated extended cut), the movie has a few violent scenes and a few nude scenes and heavy drug use. I can’t say this is Scott’s best movie, but it isn’t his worst movie either. I still recommend this flick.

Grade: B


Think of Frank Lucas as the anti-Malcolm X. He’s everything Malcolm was against.


Crowe is waiting to be entertained and echoing for all eternity.


Denzel: “Look, we were both in Virtuosity.”

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