Nobody Owns Frank Lucas: "American Gangster" movie review

Ridley Scott, I love you. You know why? Because you directed Alien, that's why. Because you directed G.I. Jane and Gladiator.

And I know you meant well with this film, I really do. But you didn't quite mean well enough.

For the first, oh, let's say 1.25 hours of American Gangster, I had only four thoughts enter my head:

1. Damn, Denzel's still got it, never lost it come to think of it, and will always have it.

2. Those damn kids in front of me better stop throwing shit at the moviegoers in front of them or I'm going to flip my shit, and why the hell are 10-year olds in this kind of a movie, anyway?

3. Wow, this is dragging.

4. Russell Crowe's going to throw a phone at somebody.

While the performances were nothing short of great (what can you expect from Denzel Washington and that guy who uses Nextel as his own personal WMD?), the movie itself was too long, too convoluted, and didn't have enough screen time for Chiwetel Ejiofor.

However, it did somewhat pick up during the second half, only to fall a bit short again. It wasn't until the climax (the police raid) that I really sat up and paid attention to something other than the performances and the dialog. This scene was so eye-popping and -- dare I say it -- real. For a film set in the 1970's, they didn't go all anachronistic and fit the squad with flak jackets and M-16's. They gave them rifles, boot-cut blue jeans, and mallets.

That was one thing I really enjoyed about the movie: they never let you forget what the time period was. Vietnam was always being talked about and being used for financial gain, people were driving cars I don't even know the names of, they were listening to 60's and 70's dance music, and a 20% tip for a full breakfast was $1.

Ridley Scott tried his best, but there was something about this film that fell flat, even among all the charismatic gangsters, the interesting drug ring, the family dramas, the police corruption.

American Gangster is a lot better than most of the movies out there, but it certainly isn't the best. But I recommend it to anyone who has 2.5 hours to spare and whoever wants to see the Denzel Washington at his high point.

Plus, I hear that Russell's buying stock in T-Mobile, so you'd better go if you value your face.

I give American Gangster a 4/5.


patrick said...

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 flip that around by the end of the movie... very clever.