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Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington) is a successful American entrepreneur in Harlem, New York. While American soldiers fight in Vietnam, he has set up a profitable family business with his younger brothers and cousins. He has cut out the middle-men, imports his uniquely high quality product directly from the manufacturer and sells his product to the end-user.
The product: Magic Blue – pure heroin.
The transport: Smuggled in the coffins of American soldiers killed in Vietnam.
The Risk: Low – U.S. Army soldiers, police officers, judges, prosecutors are on Lucas’ payroll.
The Profit: Enormous.
Denzel Washington shines as the always perfectly dressed Lucas who enjoys family life with his mother, brothers and cousins, marries Miss Puerto Rico (Lymari Nadal) while running his business with absolutely no qualms. This man is able to shoot a competitor in the head on a crowded street or to set a man on fire in cold blood, and his motto is “See, ya are what ya are in this world. That’s either one of two things: Either you’re somebody, or you ain’t nobody.” And every word Denzel Washington says and everything he does, Denzel is 100% credible and radiates class and danger – it’s without a doubt his best performance since he played a cop in Training Day.

Detective Richie Roberts (Russel Crowe) is one of very few honest cops in Essex County, New Jersey. His sense of duty is so strong he turns in one million dollars of drug money found in a car instead of keeping it for himself, making him the most hated detective of his force. Roberts stands alone in his job, spends evenings in law school, and his wife files a divorce and demands custody for their son.
Then he gets offered a new job – he leads a new task force of honest, hand-picked cops commissioned to stop drug trafficking in New Jersey and New York. His adversaries are gangsters, the mafia, and corrupt cops – and Frank Lucas, though it takes a long time and a lot of investigating before Roberts realizes – and convinces his team – that the black gangster from Harlem is actually more powerful than the Italian mafia families and responsible for flooding New York and New Jersey with cheap and high quality heroin.
Obsessed with duty and doing what’s “right” in his job, but neglecting his private and family life, Richie Roberts is the opposite of Frank Lucas. Frank is aggressive, ruthless, convinced he is destined for greatness, a family man, he lives the life of Riley, and he acts – Richie observes, is lonely and struggles with family problems, and while he also tries to make more out of his life, he strictly follows the rules and won’t take any shortcut that’s not strictly legal (like keeping confiscated drug-money for himself or accepting a generous bribe from the mafia).

The villain is often the better part for an actor, and that’s also true for American Gangster. Just like Richie Roberts is pale compared to the charismatic, dangerous gangster Frank Lucas, Russel Crowe is playing second fiddle to Denzel Washington in his criminally underwritten role as dutiful detective. But Ridley Scott’s movie is called American Gangster and not The Untouchables – it’s a Denzel Washington film with Russel Crowe in it, and that’s just fine.

American Gangster - Denzel Washington  Ridley Scott, Denzel Washington, Russel Crowe 
American Gangster - Russel Crowe  American Gangster - Denzel Washington and Russel Crowe 

American Gangster Movie Trailer

One Response to “AMERICAN GANGSTER by Ridley Scott”

  1. Says:

    American Gangster reminded me yet again what a versatile actor Russel Crowe is, plus it’s pretty clever how Ridley Scott makes viewers love the bad guy and dislike the good guy only to turn that around by the end of the movie.

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