Home > Entertainment > American Gangster: A Belated Review

American Gangster: A Belated Review

17-Jun-08 12:10 am EST Leave a comment Go to comments

It was out in fall 2007, but I didn’t get to see it until just this past weekend.  But what a pleasant surprise was American Gangster!  Starring Denzel Washington and Russel Crowe, the movie portrays the life and times of former drug lord Frank Lucas and the remarkable career of Ritchie Roberts, the cop-turned-prosecutor who brought Lucas to justice.  The movie also documents the importation of heroin from Vietnam during the Vietnamese War and its near cataclysmic effect on the lives of many living in New York City during the early-to-mid 1970s.

The movie is a remarkable story left unto itself, but told with the exquisite talent of Washington and Crowe championing one through tale as dark and complex as this is, not only brings the story to life, but lifts it to the status of a truly great American epic.  And the characters being played – themselves alive and well today – comment on how closely their roles are portrayed in an MSNBC documentary just prior to the movie’s release.  Of course, such a review by those whom the movie portrays only reinforces the realism that Hollywood’s own "based on a true story" clichés detract from readily.

What critique I can only too humbly offer deals with the comments of the actors themselves in the follow-up interviews.  To anyone who has known or had their lives touched by drug addiction, the outright blaming of a drug dealer for the addictions of everyone else may seem gratuitous.  I can’t blame the actors – neither Washington nor Crowe have dealt with addiction to heroin, but like so many others in the world have very strong opinions on the subject of drugs and drug addiction.  And I don’t mean to say that addicts get what they deserve here either – but it must be acknowledged that deciding to use drugs to the point of addiction (opiates like heroin included) is almost always a mistake.  A mistake with many causes.  A mistake produced by human failings.  The lesson of this movie should be that no mistake – including those made by Frank Lucas – should be of a nature that bears permanent consequence (or at least without any opportunity of redemption).  And for the most part, I think that Ritchie Roberts, Frank Lucas, Russell Crowe and Denzel Washington all share that view.

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Categories: Entertainment
  1. 19-Mar-11 09:23 am EST at 09:23 am EST

    Best of all, there are top-flight performances from both Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe who create interesting, rounded characters out of potential clichés. This isn’t perfect, but it was at least entertaining. Good review, check out mine when you can!

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Terry Glavin

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