Monday, October 29, 2007

American Gangster

This is the first out of my top 20 anticipated movies I was able to see. It certainly deserved a spot on that list. Ridley Scott again teams up with Russell Crowe, and this time brings in Denzel Washington into a bad guy role he's proven he can handle. The three of them together create a modern crime epic, that despite some resemblance to Goodfellas, feels very fresh.

American Gangster tells the true story of Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington), a drug kingpin who builds an empire using army resources to smuggle heroin from Vietnam to New York. He manages to do all of this while remaining anonymous to the corrupt police. This is until they bring in Richie Roberts (Russell Crowe) an officer notorious for honesty, and an outcast among his fellow officers. The honesty in his professional life is contrasted with his failing marriage. The brutality of Lucas' professional life, is contrasted with the way he takes care of his family. Washington, of course, gives a stellar performance. Crowe, on the other hand, just sounds like a Brit trying to sound like he's from Jersey. That's okay, he still brings character to the role.

Scott once again proves himself to be one of our best directors, never letting up on the excitement, or the character development during the entire movie. Who knew that watching characters evolve could be so tense. He could very well be gaining an Oscar nomination, but there's so many worthy directors this year, who knows. The reverse roles of Roberts and Lucas was made a little too blatant, almost telling us about that theme straight away in the trailers. And without giving away too much, it all wraps up a little too neatly and quickly at the end.

The atmosphere is gritty, really gritty. It's great contrasting the streets where Roberts and his team is living, and the upper class luxury Lucas enjoys. He feeds the addiction of the slums, all while staying clear of it. It's hard to sympathize with a character like this, but when you see him with his family, it's just as hard not to. Likewise, you know Roberts is a good guy, but when you see him with his wife, you think he's a sleaze.

The movie isn't flawless, and it probably won't go down in history like the Godfather, or Goodfellas, or even the Departed probably will. It is, however, a fantastic crime drama that actually has humanity.


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