A slow burning, yet entirely gripping, mobster film, American Gangster pits Denzel Washington’s Frank Lucas against Russell Crowe’s law enforcer Richie Roberts. Spread over a necessarily prolonged running time, their story is then brutally, expertly, told.
And while American Gangster isn’t in the league of prime Scorsese and Coppolla classics (such as Goodfellas and The Godfather), it’s the nearest we’ve come in quite some time to something of that ilk. It’s all based on a true story, which does mean you need to forgive it some of its obvious narrative conventions, yet this also lends it a gravitas that the film eagerly makes the most of.
It’s great too to see British director Ridley Scott tackling meatier material again. This is the man, after all, who gave us Blade Runner, Alien and Gladiator, and he duly delivers with American Gangster. His finest work it isn’t, but an engrossing, explosive and hard-as-nails drama it absolutely is.
What’s more, American Gangster is powered by two of the finest leading man working in Hollywood right now, and it’s terrific to see Washington and Crowe on top form here. And while in cinematic terms it’s hardly a film that treads new ground, it’s nonetheless a proper, grown-up and engrossing movie, and a very good one at that. (amazon.co.uk review)