Following the death of his employer and mentor, Bumpy Johnson, Frank Lucas establishes himself as the number one importer of heroin in the Harlem district of Manhattan. He does so by buying heroin directly from the source in South East Asia and he comes up with a unique way of importing the drugs into the United States. Based on a true story.
Directed by veteran director Ridley Scott, American Gangster is based on the real-life story of notorious New York drug lord Frank Lucas, who rose from humble North Carolina beginnings to rule over a drug empire totalling hundreds of millions of dollars.
As the disastrous war in Vietnam dragged on and public outcry against the butchering of American soldiers overseas reached a fever pitch, the subsequent corruption in government and the army, and general anarchy on the streets gave men such as Frank Lucas (played by Denzel Washington) the perfect window of opportunity to make a fortune.
Having chosen to become a gangster, however, oneÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s biggest problem is not necessarily building a fortune or an empire - itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the headache of living happily ever after, legitimately holding on to that trophy wife and country estate. A wish honest, ambitious cops such Richie Roberts (Russell Crowe) would sooner die than grant.
From the steaming jungles of Vietnam to the Harlem ghetto, Ridley ScottÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s semi-epic American Gangster is close to seamless, and although it never attains the greatness of Martin ScorseseÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s The Departed or Raging Bull, it is good, solid entertainment.
Denzel WashingtonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s sleek and quietly conservative Frank Lucas, with his chilling, unexpected flashes of murderous violence, lacks the range of Oscar winner Forest WhitakerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Idi Amin in the Last King of Scotland, but not the depth. Both performances share a valuable distinction: they make the story on screen immediate and spellbindingly real.