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Thoughts on "American Gangster" . . .

Posted by 2 Dollar Productions Monday, November 05, 2007

Worth A Matinee or Full-Price Ticket: Full price. I say full price with the caveat that you must really like gangster movies - which are also long - as this one clocks in at 2 hours and 40 minutes. {Editor's Note: I saw a matinee showing.}

Will I Own It On DVD: Doubtful. I might eventually buy it if I can find a good price, but feel no need to watch it again for awhile.

1) From the first preview I saw for "American Ganster," this film had epic written all over it. The fact that it featured Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe in the lead roles, a 'based on a true story' tagline and a long running time begged for the distinction in my mind. But "American Gangster" only fleetingly works on these terms as the movie is consistently very, very good yet doesn't quite measure up to the all-time greats as this slow-burn project only fully ignites in short stretches.

2) Denzel Washington gives an outstanding performance as Frank Lucas, a drug kingpin (or businessman in his own mind) who gets rich by importing heroin into Harlem via the caskets of dead American soliders coming home from Vietnam. It's been awhile since Washington was this engaged in a film as 'Gangster' gives him a meaty role to play with, and he nails it.

3) Russell Crowe matches Washington's intensity as an honest New Jersey cop intent on taking him down. Crowe gets shortchanged by the script, however, as his story and motivations are never as fleshed out as Washingtons, a problem which is disappointing given the film's length.

4) I always enjoy movies set in the 70s as filmmakers typically set the mood with lots of cigarettes, muscle cars, outlandish fashion and questionable facial hair. All these bases were covered in 'Gangster,' which I personally enjoyed.

5) The most unfortunate aspect of 'Gangster' was the lack of screen time that Crowe and Washington share together. This film is vaguely like "Heat," where two acting titans (Pacino and De Niro in that case) work thorough a long film and only play off each other in a handful of scenes. Luckily, this movie boasts a strong supporting cast including Chiwetel Ejifor, Josh Brolin and Cuba Gooding Jr. (in what has to be the first project in at least 5 years which he wasn't embarrased to be involved with) which makes the build-up to Crowe vs. Washington worthwhile.

All in all, "American Gangster" delivers the goods, but doesn't quite reach its full potential despite a stellar cast and solid directing from Ridley Scott. It was still a very enjoyable film, however, and anytime you can see Crowe and Washington in the same movie then it's likely worth the money.



  1. One more thing about gangster flicks that take place in the '70s. The soundtrack. How was the soundtrack? Scorcese usually uses lots great tunes. How does this film compare to, oh, lets say, Casino?

  2. Heff Says:
  3. No desire to see this one whatsoever. It just doesn't float my boat. I'll probably even change the channel once it hits Dish. From the "Mr.Skin" perspective, anything good on that front ?

  4. Miss Ash Says:
  5. I haven't seen the trailer for this one but I have heard of it (I don't completely live under a rock). I dig Gangsta flicks, though may rent as 2 hours and 40 mins seems like a freaking loooonnnggg time to sit in a theatre.

  6. WhatIgot - Excellent question. I nearly mentioned the soundtrack, and then got lazy. It was very solid with some typical songs that you would think might appear on it (drawing a blank now on which ones). As far as the Casino comparison, that's a tough call, but I think Casino wins by a half-step. I haven't watched that one in awhile.

    Heff - From that perspective, there is a fair amount of nudity that occurs where a bunch of women cut the drugs for Washington's character as he makes them do it naked so "they don't steal." Sure.

    Miss Ash - You could easily rent this one as it would be very nice to be able to pause and go the bathroom, get a drink, etc.

  7. JLee Says:
  8. I'm not big on gangster flicks, and I second Miss Ash's assessment (boy that's a tongue twister) as far as renting it. That way you can take many breaks. ha

  9. Would you say it's as good as The Departed? That's my bar to which all other "epics" must reach.

    I love a good gangster movie.

  10. Jlee - That is a tough one to say, so it's better you typed it, eh? And from your thoughts, I would say a rental would be the better way to go and go and go. Ha.

    Anonymous Boxer - "The Departed" was excellent, and I have it on DVD. If you like this genre, then I would go see a matinee of "American Gangster" as it was very good, but not quite as good as "The Departed."

  11. idobcool Says:
  12. I'm waiting for the dvd on this one.

    Curious, What's the DVD (HD) of choice here Blu-Ray or HD-DVD?

  13. Idobcool - Honestly, I'm waiting on the sidelines until one of them wins as it's semi-ridiculous right now because it's the VHS/Beta thing all over again. I usually know more about things like this, but on this one, I'm staying out of it until a winner is declared. Sorry.

  14. idobcool Says:
  15. I'm waiting too.

    I was told that there will be an HD dvd player that plays both HD & Blu-ray, not sure who is producing it. As far as I know it's the Blu-ray disc winning the race right now.

  16. Thanks as I figured there had to be a player that did both kinds, although I still need some convincing to switch over as I have a hell of a lot of DVDs on my shelf right now.

  17. idobcool Says:
  18. I thought the same thing but most new HD players should play all of your old dvds too.

  19. Kayla Says:
  20. Hmmm...sounds pretty good to me.
    Although I think Russel Crowe can be a real jackass in his personal life,
    I do love (most) of his movies.
    A favorite is Gladiator. Excellent role for him, in my opinion.

  21. Linda Says:
  22. I enjoyed this film as well. Interesting story and outstanding cast. Well done!

  23. Idobcool - That's good news as that feature made sense to me, but you never know when people get greedy with new technology.

    Kayla - Agreed. I generally think Crowe is kind of a prick in real life, but he's one of the best actors working today. And I do own "Gladiator" on DVD.

    Linda - Thanks, and I did enjoy this movie as it was very well-done. I just don't think that it's quite Oscar-worthy, although it's still too early to tell.


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