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American Gangster

A movie directed by Ridley Scott

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Based on the true story of Frank Lucas

  • Oct 29, 2008
  • by
It's Harlem, 1968, and "Bumpy" Johnson is speaking to his driver and right-hand man Frank Lucas (the amazing Denzel Washington). Bumpy laments the loss of the middleman in business, the jobs lost to overseas companies, the end of the era of the working man. When Bumpy dies and Frank takes over, he omits the middleman too and purchases his heroin directly from Bangkok and ships it via military aircraft through Vietnam to the US. Frank is on his way up, and he doesn't let anyone stand in his way, even those who think now that Bumpy is dead, so is his business.

Detective Richie Roberts (Russell Crowe) is an honest cop who's taking night classes to become a lawyer. He's well aware of how corrupt the Drug Enforcement Division is, the police taking busted dope from evidence, cutting it, and reselling it on the streets. Richie and his partner find $1M in the trunk of a dealer's car, and against his partner's warning they turn in the money. Now they can't get backup and the other cops won't work with them because they can't trust honest cops.

While Frank represents The American Dream (even if it's the wrong dream) by being a gentleman, a good family man who loves his mother, his wife, and America, Richie the honest cop is a failure at his marriage, a womanizer, and a absent father to his son.

Frank's on top of the world, until an innocent gift from his wife begins his decline. Always counseling his brothers not to dress flashy and attract attention, he makes the mistake of wearing the showy, fifty thousand dollar chinchilla coat and hat his wife gave him to a boxing match. Sitting in better seats than the Italians, shaking hands with Joe Lewis, and standing out like a sore thumb, he catches the attention of Richie, who's heading a task force to nail all the big time drug players. The cops are onto Frank now, both the good ones and the bad ones. Frank is exposed, and his world is about to change.

Though based on a true story, I've never heard of the case so I can't comment on how close to reality the film came. The movie starts slow, and is kind of hard to get into. Keep watching, the movie comes together and the pace quickens. It's a movie where you'll find yourself rooting for the bad guy even though you shouldn't, because Frank seems like such a nice guy (except when he's shooting people). It's also a movie you'll want to view again, to catch all the nuances in the relationships. On a personal note, I liked all the old cars they found to use in the movie, not one car was outside the time frame. This review is based on the Unrated Extended Version, not the theatrical version. Rent first, then buy. Enjoy!
American Gangster

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review by . August 12, 2009
American Gangster
 It is very hard for me to ever say no to a movie, but for a while I had stayed away from American Gangster.  I had gotten some mixed reviews about it and I was also told it was extremely long.  However, I finally gave in on Monday and watched it after my friend Laura told me it was worth it.  While I still think it was a bit to long, the film was spectacular.  The acting performances given by both Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe were superb and oscar worthy.  This …
review by . April 10, 2009
This movie starts a little slow than picks up about midway to a fairly rapid end. Though not quite as good as Serpico, it is a good film nevertheless. Denzel Washington as Frank, the protege of the mob boss who ran Harlem. Frank learned everything from him such as keeping a low profile away from his business and being good to the neighborhood. Frank seems to elude all the police scrutiny until an organized crime unit in New Jersey headed by Russell Crowe (Ritchie) realizes that Frank must be someone …
review by . November 17, 2008
This is a very long and dark film based on a true story (with embellishments), and is set in Harlem and New Jersey during the time of the Vietnam War.     The first part of the story is about Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington) a driver and enforcer for a leading Harlem gangster, who decides to get his own piece of the action when his boss passes away. Lucas goes about his business by getting his goods direct from the source, cutting out the middlemen and selling a high quality product …
review by . November 13, 2007
Pros: acting, cast, imagery, directing     Cons: long length, historical significance, some unnecessary subplots     The Bottom Line: Across 110th street, pushers won't the junkie go free.     Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie's plot. In the New York City of American Gangster, it's hard to tell the cops from the criminals. Police officers consistently accept bribes from criminals, get a little overzealous …
review by . February 18, 2008
posted in Movie Hype
This viewer rented the DVD form of AMERICAN GANGSTER, having passed it by in the theatrical run, thinking that it was yet another 'crime and corruption in New York' genre film. It was surprising to discover that this very long film (just under three hours in the Unrated version) is completely riveting and in a way far different than the usual gangster film: this story, based on real people as outlined in an article by Mark Jacobson (transformed for the screen by Steven Zaillian), and while it has …
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I want to thank Everyone for welcoming me back! :) I'm here to stay folks, my sabbatical on writing reviews is over and I'll continue to review for Lunch. It's great to be back, too! Thanks again for … more
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About this movie


American Gangster is a 2007 crime film directed by Ridley Scott and starring Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe. Washington portrays Frank Lucas, a real-life gangster from Harlem who smuggled heroin into the United States on American service planes returning from the Vietnam War. Crowe portrays Richie Roberts, a detective attempting to bring down Lucas' drug empire. Filming was done on location in New York City. American Gangster was released in the United States and Canada on November 2, 2007. The film was also nominated for two Academy Awards, including a notable Best Supporting Actress nomination for Ruby Dee who appears on screen for less than 10 minutes.


  • Denzel Washington as Frank Lucas
  • Russell Crowe as Det. Richard "Richie" Roberts
  • John Ortiz as Javier Rivera|Det. Rivera
  • Lymari Nadal as Eva Kendo Lucas
  • Chiwetel Ejiofor as Huey Lucas
  • Josh Brolin as Det. Trupo
  • Ted Levine as Capt. Lou Toback
  • RZA as Moses Jones
  • Malcom Goodwin as Jimmy Zee
  • Ruby Dee as Mama Lucas
  • Armand Assante as Dominic Cattano
  • Cuba Gooding Jr. as Nicky Barnes
  • Roger Guenveur Smith as Nate
  • Carla Gugino as Laurie Roberts
  • Idris Elba as Tango
  • Jon Polito as Rossi
  • Roger Bart as U.S. Attorney
  • Clarence Williams III as Ellsworth "Bumpy" Johnson
  • Clifford "T.I." Harris as Steve Lucas
  • Lonnie "Common" Lynn as Turner Lucas
  • Delron Mims as Frank's younger brother
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Director: Ridley Scott
Genre: Crime, Drama
Release Date: 2 November 2007 (USA)
MPAA Rating: R
Screen Writer: Steven Zaillian, Mark Jacobson
Runtime: 157 min
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