BOTTOM LINE: Well constructed, well-filmed, realistic portrayal of the rise and fall of New York gangster Frank Lucas.
THE GOOD: Being a Ridley Scott film, you are assured of a high quality experience and he delivers yet again. The visuals are top notch with music, sound and editing all first rate and put you in the picture very quickly. Surprisingly for a gangster flick, the film is a rather intelligent and restrained piece of work. Denzel Washington gives a commanding yet controlled performance as Frank Lucas, easily one of the best of his career. When Frank does the business, he's ruthless, yet he's also well thought, saying how he has to keep as low a profile as possible to avoid drawing attention to himself (a good scene where he throws a mink coat in to the fire after it almost gets him assasinated by rival mobsters was a strong scene and showed a very different gangster). Russell Crowe also delivers a restrained performance, as the honest but flawed Richie Roberts, the cop who eventually brings Frank's empire to an end. The film almost has a documentary quality to it, not highlighting big dramatic moments in either men's careers, rather just showing how it all went down in a very realistic fashion.
THE BAD: There's not a lot wrong with this film, aside from it not really having a knock-out punch. Maybe I'm too much of a fan of films like Scarface and Goodfellas, but American Gangster doesn't really have the extra ‘something’ that those films had. This is a minor point however and there's never really any hope of trying to compare those films with American Gangster. There may have also been a little too much time spent on Richie's personal life, even though it helped to establish his character outside of his job.
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Todd Murphy is a staff reviewer at the film/DVD review web site, All About Movies.net - for all the latest reviews on the newest releases. He is also an administrator for the web site: http://www.approachingsexywomen.com