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Since I have a toe hold in the Movie Industry (soon to be swept up in the WGA strike), occasionally I get to screenings before a movie comes out. Last week, I saw American Gangster. Here is my review:
The movie is about the rise, fall and rise of two men from the New York/New Jersey Area in the late 60's and early 70's: Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington) and Richie Roberts (Russell Crowe). Frank Lucas is a driver for a Harlem gangster (who works under the Italian mob) named Bumpy. Richie Roberts is an honest cop during a dishonest time (In the beginning, American Gangster crosses paths with two movies: The French Connection and Superfly), his honesty costs him his work and his marriage.
After Bumpy dies, Lucas engineers his rise through the Vietnam Drug Trade. I won't spoil how he does it, but he makes the most of current events. During this time, Roberts is dealing with the demons of his honesty; His partner becomes addicted to drugs and he has no backup during crimes. Lucas gains power over the White mobsters and the NYPD. Roberts learns who is distrubiting drugs through the Tri-state area as a federal agent. Each man playing chess against each other.
American Gangster wins me over by actually filming in New York/New Jersey region where the story takes place. If Hollywood did that with most of their movies, it would stop Runaway production. New York and New Jersey at the time was gritty and dirty and corrupt. The film gets this. Only in the movies, the subways were cleaner.
The most Oscar worthy part in this movie is when Lucas and Ritchie sit down and talk the first time. Both men deserve the nomination; The script focus' on Lucas is it's strength, the scripts weakness is the lack of balance in Ritchie's story. Both actors stand out. But this is not the first time they worked together.
Back in the 90's, at the rise of the Information Superhighway, a movie called Virtuosity was released with Denzel playing the hero, and Crow, the villain. When Denzel was casting for an antagonist, he lobbied the film's Producers for Crowe. This time, Crowe offered himself for American Gangster to help Denzel sell the script. Both men are professionals.
See it. Watch it. Call your friends in Hollywood to nominate it.