American Gangster (2007)


Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBB

USA, 2007.  Universal Pictures, Imagine Entertainment, Relativity Media, Scott Free Productions, WR Universal Group.  Screenplay by , based on the article The Return Of Superfly by .  Cinematography by .  Produced by , Ridley Scott.  Music by .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by .  

Small-time hood Denzel Washington loses his mentor and goes into business for himself, eventually becoming the top-drawer heroin kingpin in 1970s New York. Creating an empire that sees him shipping high-quality product direct from Asia at prices lower than his competition, Washington eventually catches the attention of a Serpico-clean cop (Russell Crowe) who can’t be bribed.

Ridley Scott’s attempt to enter the canon of great crime sagas is far from the likes of The Long Good Friday or GoodFellas; while he is a masterful image maker, with kudos especially going to cinematographer Harris Savides and production designer Arthur Max for creating the period with dazzling effect, the story is never particularly engaging.  It’s not boring either, but the proceedings from criminal success to eventual police bust are observed from a distance and do not draw the audience in to the emotional catharsis of watching the good guys win. The supporting cast is superb, easily covering up for the fact that Washington is phoning in his performance and that Crowe is trying too hard to sell his phony accent.

Academy Award Nominations:  Best Supporting Actress (Ruby Dee); Best Art Direction

Golden Globe Award Nominations:  Best Picture-Drama; Best Actor-Drama (Denzel Washington); Best Director (Ridley Scott)

Screen Actors Guild Award:  Best Supporting Actress (Ruby Dee)
Nomination: Outstanding Motion Picture Cast


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