American Gangster
Russell Crowe prepares in advance of his upcoming throwing of a phone.

Theatrical Release Date: 11/02/2007
Director: Ridley Scott
Cast: Denzel Washington, Russell Crowe, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Josh Brolin

You know how some directors and actors fall so madly in love that they have to work together? Tim Burton and Johnny Depp. Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio. It’s official that you can now add Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe. I’m not sure I like that, but that’s just they way things seem to be happening.

Anyway, to the task at hand. This was an overly hyped movie, so you probably know the premise. Denzel is playing a self-made gangster in the late 60′s – early 70′s. Crowe is playing the law enforcement trying to bring him down.

It’s a movie based in historical events, so you know how it’s going to end. The question is whether the movie is good enough to engage the audience with the rest of the story and the performances.

The answer is a resounding yes, but not so fast there buddy…

The acting performances are pretty much status quo for Washington and Crowe. Not to say they aren’t entertaining, but it’s nothing we haven’t seen from either of these two do in previous movies or from similar movies. Regardless, they are solid performances that do well in serving the real stars of the movie – the production value and the story.

The production as a whole shined in the period nature of this film that was done very well. This is evident in so many scenes in so many ways. You felt like you were in the final years of the Vietnam war entrenched in the streets of Harlem or caught up in the nasty political air of the time in NYC when the drug problem really started in America. It told the story well in the details and dialogue.

The story is engaging because of its realism. Sure, this was based on a true story, but any twists and turns from reality didn’t require any sacrifice for believability. There was probably more truth than fiction by intent or by accident.

There really isn’t much of a supporting cast. You see actors that you know and love, but everything is completely outshined by the dueling nature of two A-list super stars trying to outsmart the other. I did love that I caught a Wu Tang tattoo, but nothing’s perfect.

To paraphrase what a friend astutely said: it’s everything “The Departed” should have been in terms of acting, direction, and story. And that movie won Oscars.

So in the end, it’s a movie I’ll watch again, and probably enjoy it just as much. It’s not something I’ll feel compelled to own, but I do highly recommend it. If the acting performances would have reached that extra mile beyond what we expect from two talented actors, it’d be a perfect score. Because of that, it’ll only be a 4 of 5.