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American Gangster: Gritty and Effective

"The loudest one in the room is the weakest one in the room." — Frank Lucas
This line from American Gangster basically sums up Denzel Washington's quietly powerful portrayal of Frank Lucas. Every move he makes — no matter how violent — is done with a frighteningly calm control. It is in this way that Lucas manages to bring his Harlem drug ring to be on par with that of the Italians' in gritty 1960s and 1970s New York. And this quiet calm is deeply effective, not just in terms of what Lucas accomplishes in the story, but in Washington's ability to command our attention every moment he's onscreen.

The narrative runs the stories of two men simultaneously. One follows Frank Lucas (Washington), the quiet driver to Harlem's leading crime boss. When the boss dies, Lucas sees this as an opening to take over his boss' position. He uses his own connections and cleverness to bring a purer drug to the city's streets and sells it at a lower price, thus creating a booming business and countless more addicts. A serious businessman, Lucas brings his family into the organization and uses his wealth to provide for his mother and wife. Meanwhile, Richie Roberts (Russell Crowe) is one of the few honest cops in a police force overrun by corruption, and he's on Lucas' trail. Bit by bit he gets closer to proving that Lucas is at the top of the crime chain and subsequently taking down Lucas' empire. That's not all there is to this film, though, so

You can believe all the hype surrounding this film. It is absolutely going to be nominated for awards. It's a compelling story from both a historic and dramatic point of view. Ridley Scott lovingly directs this movie with an eye toward capturing an ugly era, both socially/politically and just visually. The acting is superb. As the lead actors, Washington and Crowe are utterly without pretense, focused on getting the job done. It's eerie how well Washington is able to put a kindly family man face to the horrifying world of drug trafficking and addiction. It's way too easy to sympathize with those quiet eyes, that easy smile. Strangely, you want him to succeed, which automatically puts you on the side of the bad guys, technically speaking. But you just can't help it. Frank Lucas is a kind of twisted hero.

All in all, it is simply excellent: a historical story, a crime drama, a biopic exploring a crime boss who broke racial barriers in his particular business arena. If you're already a fan of movies like The Godfather and Scarface, or if you just want to be in the know once this film undoubtedly receives Oscar nods, American Gangster is a must-see.

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Join The Conversation
Talk-Fashion Talk-Fashion 8 years
American Gangster is one of the most epic crime dramas I've ever seen. And of course, what would you expect with a Ridley Scott/Russel Crowe/Denzel Washington combo? The movie was incredible, both in its execution and in the wonderful jobs the actors did in portraying their characters. I'm definitely thinking there'll be quite a few Oscar nominations. Russel Crowe was amazing as always, but to repeat what everyone else has been saying, Denzel Washington was phenomenal. The way he delivered his scenes sent chills up and down my spine.
BeautyFreak81 BeautyFreak81 8 years
This just shows why Denzel is so damn good. While everything is chaotic he plays it to a calm that makes your blood run cold. It was a subtelty in this performance which can be difficult for some but he pulled of flawlessly, I feel another oscar coming.
UrbanBohemian UrbanBohemian 8 years
I can't wait to see this!
mbrown81 mbrown81 8 years
I'll have to take my hubby on a movie date. He'll love it.
rlveronica rlveronica 8 years
It was goooood. :)
yyam084 yyam084 8 years
didn't they get head to head for an oscar.
ohsoapplesweet ohsoapplesweet 8 years
I was blown away by the trailer. Great cast, great soundtrack. Can not wait. :)
theboyslover theboyslover 8 years
I really wanted to go see this tonight
figurine figurine 8 years
Definitely something I'm gonna watch. It's been too long since The Godfather and Scarface. :D
msshellokitty msshellokitty 8 years
I really want to see this movie.I love Denzel.
nomerz nomerz 8 years
I really want to see this. Denzel is an amazing actor.
ejerzeygirl ejerzeygirl 8 years
I saw it the other day and it is so good. TI had a real small part for some reason I thought it was bigger
Entertainment Entertainment 8 years
Common is hot as usual, but he has a really small part. I don't think he even has one line.
Linda-McP Linda-McP 8 years
Can't wait to see this. Thanks for the wonderful review, Buzz.
indielove indielove 8 years
Ooh Common!
pinkflats pinkflats 8 years
denzel does have the ability to put a human face on twisted, evil characters. i really want to see this so bad, thanks for the review buzz, but i have to ask, "how hot was rapper common in it?" "very!" i thought so, lol.
Beauty Beauty 8 years
Sounds good to me! Then again, I just love Denzel... sigh.
karisaamy karisaamy 8 years
I want to see this one - thanks for the review Bzz
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