Classic in the making
Directed by Ridley Scott, American Gangster is a superbly made gangster movie that chronicles the rise and fall of a 1970s drug lord in a New York City where police corruption is rife.
It stars Denzel Washington as Frank Lucas, the self-made gangster who works and kills his way up the ladder of the New York drug trade.
Ruthless and efficient, Lucas is portrayed as an amoral businessman who sees his success as legitimate as that of Wal-Mart. 'This is America,' he declares, proud of being part of the American entrepreneurial dream.
His opponent, New Jersey detective Richie Roberts (Russell Crowe), is a down-at-heel cop so honest that he turns in a million dollars of unmarked cash and becomes public enemy number one in his precinct. His private life is also in disarray: he is unfaithful to his wife and doesn't take care of his child.
Ridley, a serious director, has changed direction again. Edited swiftly but with attention to detail, American Gangster is not another action flick (Black Hawk Down) or thriller (Hannibal), but a powerful Scorsese-esque story that credibly paints not only the characters but also the tumultuous times in which they survive.
This is a movie that, sooner or later, will find its place alongside the Godfather series and Goodfellas in the pantheon of American crime classics.