Whaddup Gansta?; or ILIM Reviews American Gangster (with the patented ILIM Spoiler Free Guarantee)
Mrs. Duf and I went to see "American Gangster" the other day. I went in having heard two general comments about AG. First, that it was good. Second, that it was long.
On the surface, AG purports to be about Frank Lucas, a man who killed a lot of people with heroin (and made a fortune doing it). And while AG is a fine character study of Lucas, the film is not just about him. It's about two men: Frank Lucas and Richie Roberts. There is much to admire in how Director Ridley Scott tells the story, but perhaps what I admired most was how, over the course of the film (and before they ever meet), Lucas and Roberts are drawn closer together. Even though I knew of Lucas, and how his story plays out, somehow I was surprised by most of what took place after Lucas and Roberts finally make contact.
Denzel Washington is phenomenal. No surprise there. Frankly, he dazzles in just about every movie he's in (he was even pretty darn good in "The Preacher's Wife"). I've loved his work since St. Elsewhere. Russell Crowe is also very, very good (In AG, I think Denzel was meant to shine, and did; there were times when it seemed Crowe was restraining himself and pointing inward purposefully letting Washington take center stage).
And there were times when I wished for a bit more style from the Mr. Scott. The story is told well. Every scene is shot with evident skill, but I wouldn't have minded a bit more art (close ups, slow motion, non-traditional camera placement, something). While I'm at it, many of the minor characters are so ignored, that when their moments of note arrive, we either have no sense for who they are, or we don't care what happens to them. AG is so focused on Lucas and Roberts that everyone else seems to exist only to support them.
So, the film is just an excellent character study about two men of note, played by two actors who impress at every turn. And perhaps Ridley Scott intentionally dialed back the pieces of flair. I should give the man credit for realizing that Washington and Crowe could power the film and then some. They do.
AG is definitely worth seeing, and, if you're like me, it won't seem long at all.