Disilgold SOUL USA- (November 4, 2007) Producer Ridley Scott may have socred big at the box office week one for his groundbreaking hit movie, American Gangster, but critics have given some really tough reviews of one of the highest grossing films of the year that was so alarming, I had to carefully watch this movie two times to see where the movie went wrong. I have to say, I enjoyed American Gangster the first time, and enjoyed it even more the second time which leads me to conclude that these sour reviewers are just trying make their mark as agitators and condescending critics who think they can easily sway the public’s views, but not so fast.
According to our DLNA survey, every single person who said they saw the movie says the film holds equal weight to the Godfather, and the only problem with this 2 hour and thirty minute film was that it was too short, and folks wanted to see more of Denzel Washington’s stellar acting as opposed to Russell Crow. If you saw Denzel Washington in his prior movies like Glory and Training Day, it is clear that he is a multi-million dollar grossing machine who is as fine an actor as he was from the day he co-starred in a Spike Lee film called She’s Gotta to Have It!
Russell Crow plays as Detective Richie Roberts and Denzel Washington plays as Frank Lucas. His character is the notorious druglord of the 1970’s who continues the reign of Bumpy Johnson in Harlem who hired him as his right hand man and taught him everything he knew about life on the streets and running a drug trafficking business. However, Bumpy Johnson suddenly dies and now Frank is left to either succumb to intimidation and threats by local mafia and drug dealers who pass him off as a sidekick and demand 10% of his earnings.
Some dramatic twists occur as Frank Lucas recalls the advice of the late Bumpy Johnson, and faces a drug dealer named Tango in broad daylight and shoots and kills him at point blank range in broad daylight. This witty move immediately earns him the respect of the streets, and now he’s the most feared gangster in town and very powerful because he is able to acquire a street team to do his dirty work, collect his deeds and of course, get handsomely paid with drugs to make their own earnings, but of course, his cousin takes advantage of his generosity, dilutes his product with fillers and resales drugs in a very lethal form sure to kill folks with just several uses. He also, names Frank’s product Blue Magic which infringes on the value of his product leading him to threaten his own family member. Once word has it on the streets that Frank is having internal difficulty with his affiliates, someone places a drive by hit on his life which makes Frank paranoid and distrusting of local drug dealers, police and mafia who may all have a vested interest in killing him. However, he travels to Vietanm to retrieve the purest forms of drugs and smuggle them back into America within dead soldier’s coffins so he can win over local drug users with the purest product for less.
Now town junkies are glorifiying Frank Lucas who has shut down the cities traffic in areas where he’s disbursing free turkeys. He’s more powerful than the mafia, but his family life and marriage to his wife are in jeapardy as his house is ransacked and he is robbed of millions during a trip back to South Asia.
The story shifts to Russell Crow’s character who is ousted by his NYPD pals for finding and turning in over $900,000 of marked funds which is taboo in the police force since this money could have been signle-handedly divided by the then corrupt Drug task force. Now he must pinpoint Frank Lucas as the ring leader of this undercover distribution of drugs into the country somehow, but his case against him is weak until his comrad is caught shooting a crackhead and agrees to communicate with Frank undercover with a tape device strapped to his chest until the drug operation is exposed, and so he won’t do time. The plan works, and Frank agrees to give up all of his dealings with police, mafia, drug dealers and users to tear down the biggest drug cartel in the history of the United States.
Ruby Dee who plays Denzel’s character’s mother in the movie gives an endearing performance as a mother who while grateful her son bought her house, takes the time to admonish him about his illegal dealings once her and her daughter in law are assaulted in the home and robbed.
There are peak moments in the movie such as when Denzel burns his Chinchilla mink purchased by his wife with of course, his money that causes jealousy and a quick brush with death among the mafia who believe he’s loaded and want even more than 10% of his earnings. He believes his fashionable attire is attracting the wrong attention.
Undoubtedly, there could be an American Gangster 2 now that Frank Lucas has been released from prison after a short 15 year sentence for cooperating with the police and naming everyone in the drug market.
The result leads to a major breakdown in the Drug Enforcement Task force of New York City giving new meaning to a shakedown.
Denzel Washington brings American Gangster to life with clarity and makes Frank Lucas look larger than life, but make no mistake about it, Denzel’s performance is larger than life and depicts the ugly grit and grime of street life that I believe characters played by TI and Common will think twice before pursuing.
The flow of the movie was captivating and intriguing. Every character gave a stellar performance. American Gangster will be placed on the favorite list of diehard movie goers. You simply can’t write an urban book or create any gangster character from 15 years ago or more if they haven’t dealt with a Frank Lucas.
*****5 Stars! Disilgold SOUL Literary Review