In 1968, Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington) sees his chance to build an empire based on cheap but pure heroin smuggled into New York from Vietnam; cop Richie Roberts (Russell Crowe) builds a team to bring him down. The story about the intelligent but psychopathic Frank Lucas turns into a conventional but superb gangster flick in director Ridley Scott’s hands. Expect the usual clichés (in events and the dialogue) but also a lot of tension in this detailed depiction of how one black man studied the classic Mafia and built his organization in a similar fashion. Washington has boatloads of authority and Crowe is excellent as his honest, rugged nemesis.
2007-U.S. 157 min. Color. Produced by Ridley Scott, Brian Grazer. Directed by Ridley Scott. Screenplay: Steven Zaillian. Cast: Denzel Washington (Frank Lucas), Russell Crowe (Richie Roberts), Chiwetel Ejiofor (Huey Lucas), Josh Brolin, Lymari Nadal, Ted Levine… RZA, Carla Gugino, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Armand Assante.
Trivia: Inspired by an article by Mark Jacobson. Antoine Fuqua and Terry George were allegedly considered for directing duties at various points; Don Cheadle, Benicio Del Toro and Joaquin Phoenix for parts.
Last word: “If I’m excited, it tends to leak out. I think that’s what I’m good at – I’m good at pushing the pace and suddenly everyone is running. It’s very easy to do only 10 shots a day. On ‘American Gangster’, we were doing 50 set-ups a day. We wouldn’t have got through it otherwise. I’d have to do two takes and say, ‘That’s it.’ Denzel or Russell would go, ‘One more,’ and I’d say, ‘OK, let’s go.’ It’s faster to go again than talk about it. I was always fast. Now I’m really fast.” (Scott, The Guardian)