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In 1970s America, detective Richie Roberts (Russell Crowe) sets out to bring down the drug empire of Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington), a heroin kingpin from Manhattan, who is smuggling the drugs into the country in the coffins of soldiers from the Vietnam War. Nobody used to notice Frank Lucas, the quiet apprentice to Bumpy Johnson (Clarence Williams III), one of the inner city's leading postwar black crime bosses. But when his boss suddenly dies, Lucas exploits the opening in the power structure to build his own empire and create his own version of the American success story, flying to Thailand and buying his heroin direct, cutting out the middleman, selling purer drugs at lower prices.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
American Gangster is a crime epic that is made the more riveting for being based on facts. What writer would be audacious enough to invent a story in which a black guy ran a bigger, better, leaner and hungrier drug operation than the Italian Mafia in New York? This is the sort of material at which Ridley Scott excels. It's also his kinda cast: Russell Crowe is a given these days for any Ridley film which has a male lead and Denzel Washington has the chops to play a suave, well groomed bad-ass.

Crowe crimps his usual style to underplay Richie to great effect. Washington likewise plays things cool, with a few high voltage outbursts, but I'm less taken with his characterisation than I would like to be. It's not enough to shoot people in the head to create a character we can believe in, and there are ample opportunities to reveal the hidden, secret and amoral side of Mr Nice Guy.

Superb casting choices for the support roles give us a colourful range of people on both sides of the law. Officiallly, that is. By the time Richie Roberts had finished with the case, about three quarters of New York's drug enforcement cops had been convicted of corruption. Josh Brolin is terrific as the Special Detective who gets up everyone's nose, as is Chiwetel Ejiofor as one of Frank Lucas' brothers.

What I like about this film is the focused story telling; Ridley Scott is a no nonsense kind of guy, and his strength is the big story with big characters that stare down fate, defy their peers and succeed in what they set out to do. But to be interesting, they must have flaws, and he shows them all here. That's why Richie is shown as a hopeless father, and Lucas as a man whose morals went on vacation.

Technically and visually excellent, the film defies its lengthy running time. American Gangster is not quite in the Godfather class, but it's a riveting film with plenty of gas in the tank.

Available on single DVD or 2-disc collector's edition, special features include extended version, alternate ending, commentary with Ridley Scott and writer Steven Zaillian, deleted scenes, features, interviews, script meeting and more.

Published May 15, 2008

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(US, 2007)

CAST: Denzel Washington, Russell Crowe, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Josh Brolin, Lymari Nadal, Ted Levine, Roger Guenveur Smith, John Hawkes, RZA, Yul Vazquez, Malcolm Goodwin, Ruby Dee, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, John Ortiz, Cuba Gooding jnr, Amand Assante, Carla Gugino, Skyler Fortgang,

PRODUCER: Brian Grazer, Ridley Scott

DIRECTOR: Ridley Scott

SCRIPT: Steven Zaillian (article Return of Superfly by Mark Jacobson)


EDITOR: Pietro Scalia

MUSIC: Marc Streitenfeld


RUNNING TIME: 160 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: January 10, 2008


SPECIAL FEATURES: Disc 1[BREAK]• Unrated Extended Version - 18 additional minutes of never-before-seen footage and an alternate ending[BREAK]• Original Theatrical Version Including Commentary with Director Ridley Scott and Writer Steven Zaillian[BREAK]Disc 2[BREAK]• Deleted Scenes- Including an alternate opening[BREAK]• Fallen Empire: Making American Gangster[BREAK]o Tru Blu: The Real Story: An in-depth look at the true story that inspired the movie and the long road to developing the film. Featuring[BREAK]interviews with the former real-life Harlem crime boss Frank Lucas and now retired detective Richie Roberts[BREAK]o Killer Threads: A look at how the world of the 1970's was brought back to life[BREAK]o Crime War: Follow production from the streets of NY to the jungles of Thailand[BREAK]o Rhythm of the Streets: Look into the film's music, featuring tracks such as "Do You Feel Me" performed by Anthony Hamilton[BREAK]o Into the Arena: Ali vs. Frazier: Setting up the infamous Ali-Frazier fight[BREAK]• Case Files[BREAK]o Setting Up the Takedown- Be on the set as Ridley Scott directs the climactic drug bust and watch this master director at work[BREAK]o Script Meeting: A look into the production office where director Ridley Scott, writer Steven Zaillian, and detective Richie Roberts[BREAK]discuss the script and break down of the scenes.[BREAK]o Drug Test: Ridley Scott receives information on the preparation of heroin from a New York detective


DVD RELEASE: May 14, 2008

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