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MatchFlick Member Reviews
American Gangster
10 reviews

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Movie Details

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Directed By
Ridley Scott

Written By:
Steven Zaillian, Mark Jacobson

Cast:
Denzel Washington, Russell Crowe, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Josh Brolin, Ted Levine, Roger Guenveur Smith, John Hawkes, RZA, Yul Vazquez, Ruby Dee, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Carla Gugino, John Ortiz, Cuba Gooding Jr., Armand Assante, Joe Morton, Ritchie Coster, Bari K. Willerford, Idris Elba, Common, Kevin Corrigan, Jon Polito, Tom O'Rourke, Robert C. Kirk, Roger Bart, Eric Silver, Ric Young, Chuck Cooper, Chance Kelly, Sam Freed, Joey Klein, Monique Dupree, Malcolm Goodwin, Fab 5 Freddy, Albert Jones, Skyler Fortgang, Daniel Farcher, Kathleen Garrett, Quisha Saunders, Maurice Ballard, T.I., Warner Miller, J. Kyle Manzay, Melissia Hill, Robert Funaro, Tom Stearns, Mitchell Green, Connor Romero, Daniel Hilt, David Spearman, Lymari Nadal, Saycon Sengbloh

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American Gangster (2007)
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Movie Review by Jesse
December 1st, 2007

Ridley Scott + Denzel Washington = A Must See.

With a film of this genre, there are many conventions that are usually explored. Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola (being the masters of this genre) have built a standard, I think, of what works and does not work in a crime drama. In American Gangster however, Ridley Scott takes the film in other directions that resemble too closely his historic epics (Gladiator, Kingdom of Heaven). Scott does not want this film to come off as another Godfather film or Goodfellas... he wanted to contribute to the genre with his own style. The only problem is that Scott's style is too familiar. It seemed to me that I've seen this done before.

A film that has a true story behind it is usually difficult to critique. Not knowing how faithful this film is to the real events is not something that affects the overall quality of the film, but it does leave an uneasy feeling about the experience. Also, not knowing anything about the story prior to the film might be a good thing in enjoying the film that much more. Aside from that, Scott does do a fantastic job in directing this film. Having two different storylines that do not intersect with each other until the last few scenes of the film and treating them both with equal importance is impressive. Not once did Scott favour one of the storylines over the other. This lets us experience both of these characters' stories and allows for a lot of character development.

When the two lead characters are finally brought together to share the screen, the chemistry between them is great. Unfortunately, prior to their meeting, each actor has to hold their own in their respective storylines, and one actor outperformed the other by miles. Russell Crowe did a great job, but nothing memorable, where on the other hand Denzel Washington embodied the character and brought Frank Lucas to the screen with such force and intimidation, yet with a softer side that let the audience empathize with him.

The supporting cast brings in some good performances, too. Chiwetel Ejiofor and Josh Brolin have great appearances, but it's the great Ruby Dee who steals her scenes and turns in an Oscar-calibre performance (as does Mr. Washington, naturally). The actress who played Denzel's wife in the film (Lymari Nadal) was truly awful and did not make me want to watch her at all. She was the weakest link in the acting area.

Overall, a great movie that displays Ridley Scott's directing abilities (as if we didn't already know he had them), yet doesn't fulfill my expectations of the crime drama genre. With great performances from Denzel and Ruby Dee, this film is not one to miss this year. It may be unlucky at the Oscars since it's following too closely in The Departed's footsteps, but it surely will be recognized.

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Andy
Dec 1, 2007 12:28 PM
 
American Gangster is simply a Donnie Brasco, not a Goodfellas.
Jesse
Dec 2, 2007 3:11 AM
 
I never said it was a Goodfellas. I said it seemed as if it wanted to be a Goodfellas.

But you are right, it does come off as Donnie Brasco-esque.



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