I can understand how, in the eyes of the Academy, 'No Country for Old Men' won best picture. I understand and have a certain disdain for it (read my review a few months back). After watching 'American Gangster', I must say I have a lack of understanding how it was left out of the Best picture nominees. The only explanation I can fathom is that over the years, since the 'Godfather' and perhaps before, the film world has always had epic Gangster films. Featuring decades of drugs and violence, and the ending that only a "Based on a true story" tale can provide. American Gangster somehow encompasses all of these, and yet remains original and enjoyable throughout.
I'm sure you have heard the phrase, "The film had me from the first frame", well never, and I do mean never, have I felt this to be more true. Fade in, bam! Light a dude on fire, crazy. Denzel would be the main reason why this film never loses your attention. He is vicious in this film. How you give him the Oscar from 'Training Day', then no for this, I dunno. The second reason would be Russell Crowe. What's this? A cop in a gangster movie that doesn't back stab, or blur the lines to get his man... An honest cop on film? Can it be. It is and I loved it.
And the story goes... Once the drugs were controlled by the, well everyone that wasn't an African American, then Denzel took charge after his boss died, eliminated the middle man, went straight to "we sell you pure drugs" Thailand, and changed for ever the quality of drugs in the hood... and then further. Enter Russell Crowe, aforementioned honest cop, who is put in charge of the first real anti narcotics unit. While he and his team put the pieces together, Denzel grows to rival the mob, and others. Naturally this causes enemies to pop up everywhere. So he has to fight hard to hold on to his kingdom, while Italians, crooked cops (a freakin ton of them, guess they felt it would balance out the honest one), and any number of wannabees try to take him down, or get in on his game.
This film manages, I felt, to at no point make you feel that you should sell drugs. There is wealth, but this film is not to glorify the story, only relate it. It's dark, you're always looking over your shoulder, and when the end comes, well, it hits hard. One thing I absolutely loved about this movie, it actually had a good ending. I kid you not, a gangster movie without the "I learned my lesson don't sell drugs ending", or the "Everyone has left me behind, I'm pathetic"... None of them. Awesome. Russell and Denzel dance around the whole film, but never cross paths. When they finally do, man, talk about a good time. Watching them have a blast trying to out act each other, alone, is worth the price of admission.
A great film, A great gangster film...
Go see... that is all... rent it now bitches.
movie scale 4 out of 5 stars
Gangster scale 4.5 out of 5 stars