The true story of Harlem crime boss Frank Lucas, who dominated
the heroin trade by buying direct from Vietnamese sources.
American Gangster (2007)
Directed by Ridley Scott
Written by Steven Zaillian
Starring Denzel Washington, Russell Crowe, Josh Brolin,
Chiwetel Ejiofor, Lymari Nadal, Ruby Dee, Ted Levine,
John Hawkes, RZA, Cuba Gooding Jr., Armand Assante,
Carla Gugino, John Ortiz, Idris Elba, Common, Joe Morton
Based on the newspaper article "The Return of Superfly"
by Mark Jacobson
Oscar Nominations - Best Supporting Actress (Ruby Dee),
Best Art Direction
American Gangster is one of the finest gangster films of the 2000s, and a prominent feather in the cap of director Ridley Scott. It's criminally overlooked amidst films like The Departed and No Country for Old Men, but this fiery, slow-burning gangster epic is just as good, if not better in certain ways. Despite only sharing a couple of scenes towards the end, Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe are phenomenal as the film's leads on vastly different sides of the board. And this is also based on a true story. Frank Lucas was a very powerful gangster who basically owned New York City for a brief period in the early 1970s. And if any of this is true, holy shit is this an insane story of corruption, greed, and drugs.
In the wake of his mentor's death, Frank Lucas (Washington) corners the drug market in Harlem by buying wholesale product direct from Vietnamese suppliers, cutting out the middleman. This makes him the king of New York, essentially, and draws in a lot of unwanted attention. Richie Roberts (Crowe), an honest cop in a sea of corrupted ones, is assigned to the case and struggles to take down Lucas's empire. Lucas is a dangerous sociopath who kills people in broad daylight and threatens cops on a daily basis. And Richie struggles to stay honest when everyone around him chastises him for not skimming a little off the top. Two ambitious men from opposite worlds hunting one another. It doesn't get much better than that.
This is one of Ridley Scott's best films and a true epic in every sense of the word. It has echoes of the sprawling films of the 60s, and a gangster flair similar to the 70s. Considering Ridley's been a prominent filmmaker since the late 70s, that's not surprising. But it is delightful, and makes for an unforgettable viewing experience. If you haven't seen it yet, check this one out for sure. You won't be disappointed.