Friday, December 07, 2007

American Gangster

The last three or four movies I've seen at the cinema have been very disappointing and, half an hour into "American Gangster", I thought I was attending yet another turkey. However, after a fairly disjointed first thirty minutes that seems to jump around all over the place in order to establish the foundations of the story, "American Gangster" settles down into a compelling morality tale of good versus evil. Of course, all the best gangster movies are of this type: though the narrative tries to confuse us about what is right and wrong and even provides instances of how the bad guys' family morality and idea of "friendship" may be superior to that of the good guys, in the end, we know that the gangsters are going to have to take a fall. "American Gangster" is in the tradition of Cagney, Edward G. Robinson and, more recently, "The Godfather"--even though the events are based loosely on a true story.

"American Gangster" tells the story of Frank Lucas who during the Vietnam War, cornered the drugs market in Harlem by buying directly from sellers in South East Asia. It is said that at one point he was making more than a million dollars a day. Russell Crowe plays the slobbish law enforcement officer who, amongst so many crooked policeman, just happens to have an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder for honesty. Crowe finally tracks down his man and Lucas' sentence is reduced in return for information on crooked policemen in the New York City Drugs Squad. This information eventually leads to the astonishing revelation that more than three quarters of the drug squad policemen are crooked.

This is a high quality movie with excellence in every area. Ridley Scott directs and "American Gangster" is a better movie than his more famous past collaboration with Crowe, "Gladiator". Crowe himself plays the oafish police officer who for some reason just happens to be obsessed with honesty, to perfection. His wife suggests in the divorce court room that he is honest about material things so that he can buy himself credit to be dishonest emotionally and, given what we see of Crowe's character, this seems a likely enough suggestion. Denzil Washington is a fine actor and soon dismisses the idea that he is too much of a "nice guy" to portray Lucas. On the couple of occasions that Lucas loses his temper, Washington comes across as truly intimidating.

I predict that "American Gangster" is destined to become an accepted masterpiece of the genre.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love Denzil!

4:36 AM  
Blogger pluto85 said...

Mi piace

1:38 PM  

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