American Gangster (2007)
Following the death of his employer and mentor, Bumpy Johnson, Frank Lucas establishes himself as the number one importer of heroin in the Harlem district of Manhattan. He does so by buying heroin directly from the source in South East Asia and he comes up with a unique way of importing the drugs into the United States. Partly based on a true story.
Apart from Denzel Washington all actors are as bad as it could get. I have never seen such a bad cast.
The policeman is no angel in the purest of catholic senses, meaning he has extramarital sex. He is aggressive for an aggressive town. Otherwise he is a nice guy. The gangster is a variation of the old stock character tart with a heart of gold. Again, he is violent, but only because his job requires him to. Usually he too is peaceful. Drugs bring lots of money. And at the same time they are sometimes treated with less respect than wheat flour. Considering the expensive cast, I expected a better script.
Denzel Washington puts on one of his best performances in this top class mob movie. Based on a real life African American crime boss, this film succeeds in bringing his story to life. While other crime films focus on the Italian or Irish mafia scene the best being the infamous Godfather Trilogy this movie is highly original in telling the story of a Black Crime family. What's like with almost all truly great mob movies like Goodfellas or Casino is that the character is ambiguous looking out for his family. The times he is living in (70's) with the international dealers he has to deal with shows that the character has to make a living somehow and of course his violent tendencies is a big reveal into the real world of the mob as opposed to the exaggerated or gentlemen approach taken in other mob movies. The movie is full of action, suspense and mystery as the cops try to figure out who is behind the recent drug epidemic. This series foreshadows Breaking Bad which became a major series in the 00s. This movie is up there with the Godfather and Scarface in showing us how the criminal fraternity really operates.
After his mentor is killed, "Frank Lucas" (Denzel Washington) decides to assume his former boss' place as the key drug dealer in Harlem. However, there are other drug lords who have also been waiting for this opportunity and they have decided to move into this territory as well. Because of that Frank takes a huge gamble and, rather than dealing with established middle men for his heroin, decides to procure his product directly from an original source—Thailand. This results in his being able to obtain pure heroin and cut it up to his own standards which happens to be of a better quality and for a cheaper price than anybody else can match in New York. Needless to say, this increases his customer base at the expense of the Mafia. And that doesn't make them very happy. It also increases his visibility to various law enforcement agencies for completely different reasons. Some want him off the streets while those more corrupt want to share in the profits. Regardless, a lot of people suddenly become interested in him and that means trouble—for everyone. Now rather than reveal any more I will just say that this is one of the better drug-related movies out there with Denzel Washington performing in a very excellent manner. Russell Crowe (as "Detective Richie Roberts") also performs well but make no mistake—this is Denzel Washington's movie all the way. In any case, I enjoyed this movie and have rated it accordingly. Definitely above average.