American Gangster (2007) Movie Review

American gangster

Title: American Gangster
Year: 2007
Genre: Biography, Crime, Drama
Play time: 2h 56m
Director: Ridley Scott
Starring: Denzel Washington, Russell Crowe, Chiwetel Ejiofor

A true story brought to the big screen, American Gangster is the film about Frank Lucas and Richie Roberts, the lord of drugs in Harlem back in the 70s and the cop who eventually got him. This film is told as every true story movie is normally told, but the story is so good and engaging that the audience will feel as if the film were a lot better than what it actually was.

The film is not bad, and even less the story. Yet, it was told as any other story out there, without making the audience think too much or being too convincing, not in the first few minutes. But this is all eventually compensated with a high-quality directing, awesome acting and a wonderful technical work that make it just effective. If you want to watch a great movie, this one may be the one you’re looking for – unless you want something different.

An Uncommon Plot – American Gangster (2007)

The drug lord wants nothing else than his drugs back, drugs he claims to have been brought directly from Vietnam during the war. But the police detective won’t let him do it, he won’t let him have his drugs back – he only wants to incarcerate him and all those cops who are part of his malevolent drug cartel. And that’s what he will fight for in the entire movie.

Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington) is not that simple nonetheless, his ambitions go further beyond that, as he is hated by all other mafias on the city, yet he’s one of the biggest and wants to become the king and biggest of them all. But the cop, Roberts (Russell Crowe), who’s also not as simple, won’t let him do it and will do everything in his hands to stop him.

Two Outsiders

Both Lucas the mobster and Roberts the cop, are not from Harlem originally. One is a black man whose family left him a past full of hard times and a struggling life. The other is a Jewish cop who has battled the anti-Semitism from the country all his life, and now that he’s on one of the worst cities – this task is still ongoing.

And this is exactly what makes these two characters respect each other. While one wants to be the king of the mafia, the other wants to get him and all the people that are both behind him and infiltrated. But they have a common enemy, the Italian mafia commanded by their king (Josh Brolin). But this won’t affect their hostility, while one just want to get rid of them, the other wants to get them into jail, they will have to battle each other still.

A Common Storytelling

Even though the movie has a different type of plot we may not be so familiar with, the storytelling of this movies was, in many ways, as any other 70s and mafia movie out there. Here we will experience the common pop-music denominator, bars & clubs with hot women and smoky environments, the usual family events going all mafia massacre and the common shootings between the bad and the good guy without any of them getting really hurt. Among many other things, this is what will make us feel as if the movie is not so different from any other, even though the main characters are a lot different than what they seem.

But this doesn’t harm how smooth and engaging Ridley Scott’s directing is. We can see how everything goes well for a lot of time, how every conflict contains the emotional value of the characters and how every dialogue holds enough importance to make us care with enough attention. The storytelling may be flawed in originality, yet the talent and professionalism from Scott make it good enough to be enjoyable and completely interesting in many ways.

American Gangster: Uninspiring Theme

Even though the main purpose of the movie is to show us the true story about two guys, a cop and a drug lord, who in the 70s were part of some of the biggest conflicts ever in Harlem, the theme of the movie, the way it was told, and many scenes from the lowest slums in the city, show us how great of an impact all these conflicts and situations had on the poorest population.

We can see without much processing that the city was already getting damaged by drugs, by how the drug business can eventually have that much of an impact without directly being part of people’s lives, yet it can still damage everything and everyone by simply existing. A movie depicting things that happen decades ago that still have a lot of major messages to tell us – how ambition can be the worst enemy of humankind, and how societies get little by little uninspired by something that is less than important in our lives.


Movie geek and tv show lover. Favorite genres: sci-fi, action, crime. Fan of trilogies.

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