Saturday, October 23, 2010

American Gangster

This is a great movie.

I saw this when it first came out, but I picked up the two-disc special edition DVD the other day because I saw it on sale for four dollars. At that price, it was a no-brainer. It's just a fantastic movie that came with two-discs of fully loaded extras and bonuses. But, honestly, I probably would've purchased the bare bones single disc version at that same price anyway.

American Gangster, if you are unaware or haven't seen it, tells the epic, sweeping life story of Frank Lucas, perhaps the most powerful and influential druglord in Harlem during the 60s and 70s. Lucas is played by Denzil Washington, the officer assigned to take him down is played by Russell Crowe, the screenplay is by Steve Zaillian (who also wrote Schindler's List and Gangs of New York), and it is directed by Ridley Scott. That's really all you need to know, but if that's not enough, it's also a great story full of drama and excitement, featuring all of those people at the top of their games.

There are really only two scenes featuring Crowe and Washington together (and they come about two hours into the movie!), but they are absolutely amazing. These are the two best actors currently working in films, and they are amazing together. Their performances in this film are much better than their performances opposite one another in Virtuosity. But this film also kind of works as a prequel to Virtuosity, and I bet some of Frank Lucas's personality was injected into the Sid 6.7 program. But I'm digressing from my point. This is a brilliant movie and you should just go rent it already. 

Now that I got that out of the way, I just want to talk about the one thing that bothers me about this film: (SPOILER!!!!!!!) Even though he went to prison and lost his empire, Lucas never really got his comeuppance as far as I'm concerned, and the film even kind of glorifies his life and his character. The guy was a stone-cold murderer who caused the deaths of untold thousands and thousands of lives because of the drugs he brought into the city. So the film's coda where Lucas gets out of prison and is shown to be all buddy buddy with Richie Roberts never sits right with me, even though I'm sure it's probably historically accurate. I needed a little better sense that he was sorry for what he did, or that he was looking for some kind of redemption. But I don't think you get that. It's not a deal-breaker, since it actually adds another level of depth to the story, but on a personal level, I think he should've gone to prison for the rest of his life. Screw that guy.

And to make matters worse, the real Lucas appears on the bonus features in interviews and behind the scenes footage. He was a key person on the set working to get the story right and appearing at press junkets. Now, I believe in forgiveness and the power of redemption, but it still seems odd to see people like Ridley Scott and Brian Grazer acting all buddy buddy with a convicted murdered in a behind the scenes featurette. I mean, if you go to the biography for Frank Lucas on wikipedia, the picture is of him appearing at Comic Con.

But still... amazing movie.


Justin Garrett Blum said...

It's funny--I never thought to note that this was the second film in which Denzel and Crowe star opposite each other.

This was a decent film, though I'm with you--drug dealers can rot in jail for all I care.

Donald said...

I threw in that bit about Sid 6.7 just to amuse you.

Justin Garrett Blum said...

Mission accomplished, then.

Donald said...

Maybe I need to go back and rewatch Virtuosity, but why did they make that computer program based on serial killers anyway? That seems like a really dumb idea.

Justin Garrett Blum said...

I think it was supposed to be some sort of training program for police officers. Or something.

What a silly movie. And yet...I wonder how many times I've seen it...