Hey, everyone. ”Moriarty” here. This is one of those films I’m itching to see right now. People close to the production are calling it one of the best films of Ridley Scott’s career, and seeing Russell Crowe and Denzel Washington go head-to-head at this point in their careers (a loooooooong way from VIRTUOSITY) is an exciting prospect. Especially when a review like this shows up in my inbox:
Hey Moriarty, I thought I'd send you this, since you're my favorite writer here at AICN. I bet it’s a pretty good scoop, since the movie doesn't come out 'till November. ;) A few days ago I got to sit down to watch all three hours of AMERICAN GANGSTER with Denzel Washington and Russel Crowe, which will no doubt be soon ranked right up there with the great gangster/cop movies. I see it as more serious and realistic then THE DEPARTED was, a terrific movie, too, but with sometimes hard to believe dialogue. GANGSTER plays it close to the vest and takes its time to develop its story, particularly in setting it up. Its around three hours long, but you get hooked in after the first twenty minutes and the pacing is very well done so that you don't get bored. Main actors Washington and Crowe are so good in their portrayals that even the slow scenes work remarkably well. It reminded me in that respect of ZODIAC. Also like Fincher's movie, GANGSTER is based in the 70s and early 80s (In one scene, Russel Crowe's character "discovers" the microwave), and the look and feel of the era is very well portrayed. As I mentioned earlier, this is a movie that takes its time to tell its story, which is a true one, by the way. The writers and director Ridley Scott were smart to do so, because this is such a rich story, and while I was shocked that it hasn't been adapted before, you can see where true stories like this one have influenced countless screenplays, in CASINO, The DEPARTED, SCARFACE, HEAT. Here's a quick rundown of the story. START SPOILER WARNING: At the beginning, Frank Lucas (Washington) is the right-hand man of who is probably the Don of all black gangsters in New York. The Don however is upset over the "hard" times, keels over and dies, thrusting Lucas in the role of boss. However, he realizes that his mentor didn't manage his business well and didn't really "own" the town at all. So all of the other bosses dismiss him, and he has to assert himself... ... and boy, does he. To become the #1 drug lord, Lucas goes to Vietnam (it's set partly during the War), deep in the jungle to cut a deal with the heroin-producer himself. He transports this 100% pure stuff back to NY through the use of Army cargo transports (everyone gets bribed on the way), and soon, Lucas is on top of his game, selling heroin that's cheaper and far superior to anything on the market. Everyone hates him, of course, and he cuts deals along the way with other crime lords and the corrupt police as well. Enter *REALLY* good cop Russell Crowe, who is hated and distrusted in a completely corrupt police force for having, among other "goodness," refused to keep a million bucks in cash he finds in an abandoned car. He is obsessed with cleaning up the force, the city, and half the movie is about his search for the top crime boss, the one responsible for this new influx of top-notch heroin. We also get a sub-storyline about his struggles to keep his ex-wife from leaving with their kid, which is not greatly developed because the director Scott was more interested in the detective's quest for truth than too much fleshing out of his character. Same goes with Denzel's Lucas, who we see as a family man, husband, but far more doing the wheeling and dealing that brings him to the top. And that's all I'll give away about the story line. END SPOILER WARNING: As for the actors, Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe pull off solid-to-terrific jobs, although its hard not to take their work for granted, because I think if anyone else carried this movie like they did, we'd be touting them as the "next big thing", but instead we expect them to be this good. I liked the supporting cast with some recognizable faces—Such as Cuba Gooding Jr's blink-and-you'll-miss-it turn as a pimp/mob boss, Josh Brolin as the head of the bad cops (evil as can be and probably as impassioned about his role as that actor will ever be), TALK TO ME and CHILDREN OF MEN's Chiwetel Ejiofor as one of Denzel's character's brothers, or Carla Gugino as Russell Crowe's character's ex-wife. Oh, and I should not forget of course Armand Assante, in a role we've seen him do so well for so long, as a crime boss. As they always say: if you use this call me Funboy.