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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

American Gangster - review

American Gangster (18)

Dir. Ridley Scott

Reviewed by Matt Adcock

‘Damn it feels good to be a gangsta’…goes the hip hop track (best ever usage in the film 'Office Space' and it certainly seems to be the case for 70s drugs kingpin Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington) – the American Gangster in question here.

Director Ridley ‘Gladiator’ Scott perfectly captures the audacious drugs entrepreneurship of Lucas who managed to flood the streets of the US with high-grade heroin imported from Vietnam via some dodgy military contacts.

Based on a true story, the American authorities simply refused to believe that a black mobster’s chauffer could rise to become the most successful and dangerous of drug lords, even outstripping the crime networks of the established Italian Families. But then there’s always one who’ll believe the unbelievable and here it is ‘last good cop’ Richie Roberts (Russell Crowe), a doggedly honest detective – hated by most of his corrupt colleagues for turning in over a million dollars of dirty drugs money rather than sharing it out. Roberts is a guy who simply will not quit once he gets a sniff of the unlikely trail leading to Lucas and his massive drug empire.

Washington burns up the screen with his depiction of the drug kingpin, by turns crackling with deadly charisma, then slow-burning, smouldering menace. Adored and idolised by his family - all of whom he moves in to a lavish new home, he employs his brothers, cousins and other family connections to front his drugs distribution network. On the surface Lucas seems to have it all but in American Gangster we get some insight into the swirling emotions and frantic doubts that lie beneath the cool, calm exterior.

Scott draws obvious inspiration from classics of the genre from Godfather to Scarface and whilst this doesn’t give the film an original feel, it does ground it in quality. Some great edgy action scenes punctuate the build up as the plot unfurls at a leisurely pace. Both lead actors are just excellent in their deadly game of cat and mouse – at times it seems that Roberts is small kitten looking to take down Lucas’s monster rabid rat but that too just adds to the viewer’s engagement.

American Gangster is a good looking film, with solid attention to detail and a believable ‘70s vibe. It’s certainly a trip worthy taking and it stands as a testimony to how laborious hard work can pay off in the end. Seems however that even for those who get to the top, sometimes it’s not so good to be a gangster…

Out of 5 you have to go with a heavy duty crimewave 4 (Crime doesn't pay!)...

Darkmatters ratings:

Action ööö – couple of very cool action scenes
Laughs ööö – surprising amount of good vibes
Horror ööö – nasty but necessary
Babes öö – not really babelicious

Overall öööö (better than the sum of its parts)

"Damn it feels good to be a policeman... um actually not so sure about that"

Darkmatters: H O M E

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