Self-important, dumb and derivative
Like Martin Scorsese's "crime epics", Ridley Scott's "American
Gangster" only pretends to offer insights into the world of crime. In
reality it is too busy using style (and the presumption that its
"autobiographical" nature equates with "truth") to disguise the fact
that it is a vapid film cobbled together from bits and pieces of other
Post "The Wire" all these postmodern "gangster flicks" thus reveal
themselves to be, not only entirely vacuous, but without any real world
relevance, and would be far more honest had they embraced the
dishonesty of, say, Tarantino's "Pulp Fiction".
So while Scorsese cribbed from the machine gun operas of the 1930s and
40s, Scott steals from the blaxploitation and rugged antihero crime
movies of the 1970s. The result is a slick but soulless copy of such
crime films as "Super Fly", "Across 110th Street", "Black Caesar",
"Serpico", "French Connection", "Crime Story" and "Prince of the City".
Not only is "American Gangster" wholly derivative, but it is about as
edgy as a Walt Disney fairy tale. Denzel Washington, who plays crime
lord Frank Lucas, tries desperately to create an iconic character, but
a poor script ensures that he creates nothing but a bag of clichés.
Every line of dialogue, every decision, every gesture he commits, oozes
derivation. Spouting lines like "Either you're somebody or you ain't
nobody!", "This is my home. This is America!", "The most important
thing in business is honesty, integrity, hard-work and family!", the
too-suave-to-be-a-thug Denzel Washington comes across as a
back-to-front amalgamation of Don Corleone and Tony Montana, dumb
wisdom and genteel thuggery wrapped up in chocolate frosting.
But then, every character in this film has been cynically designed by
committee. We have Russel Crowe (doing a bad "Starsky and Hutch"
impersonation) as the typical "good cop with a messed up family life",
on the hunt of Denzel Washington's Frank Lucas, who is the typical
romanticised gangster (and family man!) going through the motions as he
follows the usual gangster trajectory. "Character development" in both
cases simply constitutes revealing both characters to be womanizers, as
if this somehow "greys" them, makes them more nuanced.
Scott's films rarely say anything, but this one is particularly dumb.
We get the typical "crime doesn't pay" message and the lip service to
unattainability of the American Dream, whilst the one interesting theme
of the film the long-delayed victory of black capitalism is quickly
jettisoned. Better to treat Lucas' life as satire, a grotesque parody
of market warfare, or take things seriously and examine why his rise
coincided with the 60s or how his cartel affected the black community.
Heck, why not glorify the guy and treat his life as a viable and
morally defensible career opportunity? Faced with the choice of either
going to Vietnam and fighting for Uncle Sam or staying at home and
selling cocaine, cocaine seems like a far better option. There are so
many interesting avenues you can take this material, but Scott has
always been devoid of any kind of world view.
But even as mindless entertainment, the film fails. Scott's "violent
scenes" are supremely self-conscious, cynically injected into the film
solely to titillate. This is calculated violence, rarely flowing
organically from the film's plot. Similarly, the film's "cat and mouse"
plot never ignites, its urban aesthetic can't touch Lumet,
Frankenheimer, Ray, Mann or Friedkin, and the script never surprises.
The early 90s had a boom in "black gangster" flicks, films like "New
Jack City", "Tales From The Hood", "Straight Out of Brooklyn", "Dead
Presidents", "Juice", "Clockers", "Boys In The Hood", "Menace 2
Society" all popping up on cinema screens. None of these films are
great, but they're all better than this glitzy junk.
6.9/10 With his distinct visual style, director Ridley Scott has
spent his career conning people into mistaking his auterism for
artistry. You want 70s grit done today, watch "Harsh Times", "Training
Day" and to a lesser extent, "We Own The Night". Otherwise, re-watch
the classics or steal a "The Wire" box-set.
Worth one viewing..
aston watch Corpse Bride movie
i like the actor i like the movie.
mikeokey watch Hollywood Dreams movie
American Gangstar-Denzel Washington can be said to be one of America's most realistic actors. wise in judgement and knows perfectly when to pull the trigger. But one good thing is that the long arm of the law preserves no defaulter..
naynay382 watch Pollyanna movie
cookout: was a good movie . It funny and it is family orintated .
moesje watch The Andromeda Strain movie
a.sebhat watch Miracle On 34th Street movie
american gangster is one of the greatest movies i've ever seen.
This was denzels second best movie ti should of played baseball.
This was an excellent movie.
Ridley Scott's gangster epic just misses 'classic' status
Directed by Ridley Scott. Starring Denzel Washington, Russell Crowe and
About halfway into "American Gangster", it becomes clear where the
movie's strengths lie. The strong leading performances from Denzel
Washington and Russell Crowe lift the film above typical gangster fare,
but are not quite enough to secure it a place among classics such as
"The Godfather" or "Goodfellas." The movie tells the true story of
Frank Lucas, the man who gained notoriety in the 1970s for smuggling
cocaine into the U.S. during the Vietnam War. Washington effortlessly
embodies Lucas's persona, making the transformation from two-bit thug
to unofficial King of Harlem all the more fascinating to watch
Director Ridley Scott knows his way around violent films, having
collaborated with Crowe before in "Gladiator." However, Scott decides
to ease up on the aggression this time around, allowing his
more-than-capable stars to draw the audience in with their natural
abilities. Of course, with a title like "American Gangster", one should
not expect anything remotely kid-friendly. "Gangster" has its brutal
moments, but they are not Scott's primary concern. He sets out to tell
the story of Frank Lucas, and he takes an interesting approach.
"Gangster" spends the first two acts glorifying what Lucas does. It
seems as though the life of this drug dealer is without significant
problems. Only as the movie winds down does it begin to show the darker
side of the business. This is where Scott slips up. Lucas is faced with
problems at every turn, from the police to his own family, and it
leaves him with feelings of mistrust and paranoia. But by praising
Washington's character for two thirds of the film, it feels insincere
when Scott suddenly becomes critical. This is the man the audience has
been rooting for, and now he is supposed to be seen as the bad guy? The
director seems unable to make up his mind, and it is illustrated in the
Overall, "American Gangster" is one of the most entertaining films of
the year. The running time may be pushing three hours and it may send
out mixed messages, but great performances and thrilling action
sequences more than make up for any missteps. Even the mildest fans of
the crime genre owe it to themselves to give it a try and enjoy the
Final Grade: B+.