Sunday, 4 October 2009


Ridley Scott's AMERICAN GANGSTER tells the true story of the rise and fall of black gangster Frank Lucas and the detective who finally brought him down. From the opening scene when Lucas casually pours petrol over a bound man and sets him alight befor shooting him we know that he is capable of any violent act. His main business is drugs which he floods the streets with and which he can sell cheaper than his rivals because he imports directly from South East Asia. The film depicts him as more intelligent and cultured than his fellows which tends to make us quite like him and the fact that he is played by Denzel Washington makes us have to keep reminding ourselves that this was a real mobster who was responsible for the deaths of thousands. Dramatically this works well as does Russell Crowe's depiction of Detective Richie Roberts as a cop whose honesty extends only to his police work and not to his private life. Lucas's personal lifestyle makes him almost invisible to the police investigations and it is only when he reluctantly goes against his personal taste and attends a sporting function dressed in flash pimp clothes does he draw the attention of the police. The film, like Lumet's SEPICO and PRINCE OF THE CITY, blurs the line between the crooks and those that hunt them - to the corrupt police (75% of New York's drug squads were proved corrupt - mostly thanks to the evidence of Frank Lucas) the film also implicates the U.S.Military personel who were smuggling drugs into the country on Lucas's behalf - even using the coffins of the war dead. Ironically, Lucas and Roberts would eventually become friends. The film is superbly acted with Washington giving one of his best performances in a film that is multi-layered and excellently directed. Rating ****

The real Richie Roberts and Russell Crowe who
portrays him in AMERICAN GANGSTER

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