003797Reviews & Counting
American Gangster
DVD disk
03.18.2008 By: Lindsey
American Gangster order
Ridley Scott

Denzel Washington
Russell Crowe
Josh Brolin


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Loosely based on a true story about Frank Lucas, (Denzel Washington) who reigned over Harlem as a notorious drug lord in the 1970s. Determined to seek justice, narcotics officer Richie Roberts (Russell Crowe) will stop at nothing to bring Lucas down for good.
AMERICAN GANGSTER was one of the most anticipated films of 2007 that should of had Oscar written all over it. Director Ridley Scott gives us a film that had great potential, but manages to loose us halfway through. Being a huge fan of GLADIATOR, and BLADE RUNNER, my expectations were set high as Scott has proven to be one of the best directors out there. What we are left with is the already ‘been there, done that’ kind of feel. I felt like I was watching something that’s been done numerous times. Denzel reminded me a lot of Johnny Depp’s character in BLOW, (George Jung vs. Frank Lucas) whereas a lot of scenes were also quite similar. This is where the typical ‘rise and fall’ story comes into play, with of course, the grand Hollywood ending.

One of the best things about AMERICAN GANGSTER is the amazing soundtrack that captures the essence of the urban life in the 70's. I found myself rocking out to Hold On, I’m Comin' by Sam & Dave, during an excellent montage of everyone doing what they do best. I also dug the song Across 110th Street by Bobby Womack (Also used in JACKIE BROWN). Even though the soundtrack was top notch, where is the violence to go along with it? This is a gangster movie... right? During the opening we’re treated right away with a ‘wam, bam, thank you ma'am’, but ultimately we are left teased as the violence factor was at an all time low.

As far as the acting goes, you can never go wrong with the talented and ageless Denzel Washington. (Seriously, this man never ages!) Although his “my man” catchphrase seemed to resemble his his Oscar winning role in TRAINING DAY. Russell Crowe, who teamed up with Ridley Scott in GLADIATOR, proves to us once again why he’s an extraordinary actor. With both characters being separated about 90% of the time, the anticipated and crucial showdown at the end was a perfect way to bring these two together. Who says we’re not supposed to root for the bad guys?
Disk 1

Original Theatrical Version or the Unrated Extended Version (Extra 18 minutes): We have the option to watch the theatrical, or the ever so popular unrated version with an alternate ending. ‘Unrated’ makes it sounds like they cut out the violence, but it's basically a long extension of scenes that were kept out for a reason. The only huge difference would be the alternate ending, which is crap in my opinion. It completely ruined the “what ifs” with Washington’s character, but its always interesting to see alternate endings with any movie. This is probably the first time I preferred the theatrical cut over the unrated version.

Feature Commentary With Director Ridley Scott and Writer Steven Zaillian: I like commentaries, but this was pretty bland with Scott talking more about the technical details, while Zaillian talks about the script. I was actually getting bored halfway through, but Ridley Scott’s awesome English accent kept me listening. For a more entertaining commentary, I recommend the GLADIATOR 3-Disk Extended Edition.

Disk 2

Deleted Scenes (3:45): There was only two deleted scenes that were included here. There was an alternate opening with a man playing a drum in a closed dark shop, and Denzel walks right in and shoots the man. You never see either of their faces, except for Denzel's when the flash from the gun goes off, which was a really cool effect. I liked the theatrical version better, as it was more violent and a gritty way to start out. The other scene that was cut out, was a long boring extended scene of Frank and Eva’s wedding.

Fallen Empire: Making American Gangster 3 segments that are included within this feature:

Tru Blue: The Real Story (21:20): The real life Richie Roberts and Frank Lucas talking about the early life and the drug being brought over from Vietnam. Roberts, (who looks like one bad ass guy!) talks about his fight on crime and Lucas, who is 70 and paralyzed, tells us how it all went down, and what it was like to be a drug lord. He seems like a pretty nice guy, ironically Richie Roberts and Frank Lucas are still friends to this day!

Killer Threads: Costumes (11:16): The costume designer talking about where she got her ideas for the wardrobe in the movie. I loved the outfits, so it was nice seeing her put some designs together to create a cool 70's look. We also get surprise interview with Josh Brolin!

Crime War: Production (32:10): Producer Brian Grazer and his crazy hair, talks about the inspiration from an article in New York Magazine, entitled The Return of Superfly. They met with the real Frank Lucas and had a script made. We get a couple interviews from Washington, and Crowe discussing how they got attached to the project. It was a little long, but definitely insightful.

Case Files Another 3 segments that are included in this feature:

Script Meeting (8:10): Ridley Scott goes over the script with the writers, and while they’re talking about the scenes they flashback to the movie while everyone is talking over. It was interesting to hear their perspective on a couple scenes and how they envisioned it.

Heroin Test Show & Tell (8:55): This was the most intriguing segment on here. Ridley Scott, an NYPD technical consultant, and a property master were testing out the heroin, and its color reaction change. Scott was discussing how he wants the scene to play out, and they were experimenting different ways to test it.

Setting up the Takedown (7:45): A behind the scene look at how they shot the final takedown scene at the end. I love when they go behind the scenes, and show you how its really done. It takes a helluva lot of people to make it happen! Russell Crowe is hilarious as he jokes around with the camera and crew in between takes.
With a fantastic cast, an edgy soundtrack, and a running time of over 2 and a half hours, AMERICAN GANGSTER is one hell of a hit and miss with its lack of originality, but enough to keep you entertained. This is nowhere near the classics such as GOODFELLAS, or THE GODFATHER, but Washington and Crowe’s performance alone is well worth the watch.

I think Geto Boys said it best: Damn it feels good to be a gangsta.
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