Movie Review: American Gangster

American Gangster is Ridley Scott's take on the the organized crime genre, and it looks and feels like a tribute to the gangster classic The Godfather.

Set in the in New York City during Vietnam War era, the film looks at two lives at the opposite ends of the crime and law spectrum. On one end, we have Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington), a Harlem-based gangster who rose through the ranks and on the other end is Richie Roberts (Russell Crowe), an honest cop in the New Jersey Narcotics Division. What brings the two eventually together is the heroin problem that was sweeping the United States at that time.

The film is a good primer on the business of the mob and the drug trade, similar to how The Godfather gave the world an idea how the mafia works. Only this time, American Gangster would focus more on the operational side of things, rather than the succession aspect. The build-up of events in the film is very plausible and the action, while far from being slam-bang, is adequate. What the film focuses on is the relationships and situations each of the lead character is in. The subplots on the tumultuous domestic lives of Lucas and Roberts give more texture to the film.

The only thing I could find weak about the film is it may be something you have seen before, especially if you were around during the 1970's. There are corrupt cops, sexy drug mistresses and colorful drug dealers to spice things up, but American Gangster is a finely produced film that won't blow you away. Definitely watch it if you like The Godfather.

Rating: 4/5

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