Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Friday, October 10, 2008


AMERICAN GANGSTER (2007). Director: Ridley Scott.
Detective Richie Roberts (Russell Crowe), an honest cop, is assigned to head a new narcotics squad that will leave the street punks and small-timers to others and concentrate only on major deals and big arrests. Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington) is a drug dealer who's started a pipeline from Vietnam, where thousands of soldiers are getting hooked on junk. Naturally these two come into conflict, although a confrontation never really materializes (the scene when they face each other across a table in jail is kind of flat). The action scenes are standard, and the characterizations, especially Lucas', are thin, even if this was inspired by true events.
Washington seems miscast; Crowe is better, and looks like crap. Some familiar faces bolster the proceedings with flavorful performances: Armand Assante as an Italian gangster; Cuba Gooding Jr. as a drug dealer; Ted Levine as an associate of Crowe's; Josh Brolin as a dirty cop; Ruby Dee as Lucas' mama -- even Clarence Williams III of the Mod Squad (he's actually been pretty busy, if low profile, ever since) shows up briefly as Lucas' mentor.
Verdict: Not enough meat for its length. **.

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