American Gangster (2007) – REVIEW

by Jordache Wee

Release Date: November 2, 2007
Directed by: Ridley Scott
Music by: Marc Streitenfeld
Starring: Denzel Washington, Russell Crowe, Cuba Gooding Jr., Josh Brolin, Yul Vasquez, Armand Assante, Ruby Dee, Ted Levine, Roger Guenveur Smith, John Hawkes, RZA, Malcolm Goodwin, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Carla Gugino, Idris Elba, Jon Polito, Clarence Williams III, T.I., Common 

Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington) set his enemy on flames. While Ellsworth “Bumpy” Johnson (Clarence Williams III), a disciplined and intelligent gangster, runs much of Harlem and imparts his wisdom onto Frank, his former driver turned right-hand man. Johnson dies of a heart attack in 1968, in an electronics store. Frank dislikes the new generation of gangsters currently taking control of Harlem and he decides to take control himself.

Newark Police Department detective Richie Roberts (Russell Crowe) and his partner, Javier Rivera (John Ortiz), discovered $1 million unmarked bills in a car, Richie resists temptation and turns the money in. His honesty makes him a hated member of his precinct, causing his partner to be exiled from the force. Richie is also battling with his wife over his son’s custodian.

Soon his ex-partner from drug overdosed on “Blue Magic”, a new heroin being sold cheaper than its competition. Richie’s honesty catches him a break when his superior Captain Lou Toback (Ted Levine) puts him in charge of a newly created task force to stop major drug trafficking in Essex County, New Jersey by chasing the actual supplier.

Frank Lucas took advantage of the break up of the French Connection and went to Thailand to source out after hearing the stories of the soldiers who were returning from Vietnam and would talk about how cheap it was and how good the quality was.

Most drugs were brought into the local military base, the cost for Frank Lucas was $4,200 a kilo for 100% pure heroin and on the street, it was sold at maybe 5 percent purity. The secret to Lucas’ business was that he manages to secretly smuggle the heroin into the United States by hiding the drugs in the coffins of soldiers who died in the Vietnam War. He creates a brand “Blue Magic” and with a great monopoly on quality product, Frank quickly makes a fortune and buys several nightclubs and apartments.

Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington) having breakfast with "The Country Boys"

He moves his family from North Carolina to New Jersey, where he purchases a large estate for his humble mother. His five brothers are enlisted as his lieutenants in the drug trade – forming “The Country Boys” who work together to traffic and sell dope on New York area streets. During his rise, Frank meets and falls in love with Eva Kendo (Lymari Nadal), a Puerto Rican beauty queen. Through his discipline, organization, and willingness to kill those in his way, Frank quickly rises to the top of the Harlem drug and crime scene.

His business prospers, he makes a point of operating quietly and dressing with a modest conservatism both as a sign of strength and to avoid attracting the attention of the law. However, Frank disregards this habit for his soon-to-be wife for one ostentatious night out, attending the Fight of the Century between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, in a gaudy chinchilla fur coat and hat, along with a ringside seat.

Richie Roberts (Russell Crowe) surprised to see Detective Trupo behind

In that exact same moment, Richie is on duty observing the event and sees this unknown, but obviously wealthy person associating with high-level criminals, as well as having better seats than the Italian Mafia. Roberts becomes suspicious, and he begins to investigate this unknown figure in New York organized crime.

Lucas and corrupt cop Detective Trupo (Josh Brolin)

Lucas  realizes that he has exposed himself to police scrutiny, he must make deals with the Mafia, in this case Lucchese crime family Mob boss Dominic Cattano (Armand Assante), and fend off corrupt NYPD detectives, such as Det. Trupo (Josh Brolin), attempt to extort and threaten him.

Frank must also contend with local crime figure Nicky Barnes (Cuba Gooding, Jr.), who is taking some of Frank’s product, diluting it himself, and selling it under Frank’s “Blue Magic” brand name. Unidentified assassins try to kill Frank’s wife, further destabilizing him and threatening his marriage. And, U.S. military stationing in Vietnam, Fall of Saigon, which in turn cuts off his primary heroin transportation.

Richie and his men suspected on the U.S. military aircraft. The plane is a C-130 carrying some of the last U.S. Soldiers returning from Vietnam. Richie has his men search everyone and everything literally tearing the plane apart and even looking in the coffins of dead soldiers. Richie is ordered to cease his search of the coffins by a Federal agent who dismisses his assessment of Lucas’ dangerousness, declaring the inconceivability of a “negro”-run organization successfully outperforming the established Italian and Jewish drug families.

Meanwhile, Trupo leads his band of police officers to Lucask’s mansion where they take Frank’s emergency cash supply. Enraged at what Trupo did, and sets out to kill him and other associated officers. Lucas’ mother advise him not to do so, and Lucas obeys.

When the plane lands, Richie and his men follow the drugs into Newark’s projects and obtain a warrant. A huge group of police and detectives attack the drug apartments en masse and a large shootout ensues.

Steve Lucas, Lucas’ nephew (T.I), who gave up a promising baseball career with the New York Yankees to work for his uncle was arrested. Lucas was in church when the bust goes down, he is arrested after the service ends. Richie meets with Lucas and inform him that he has enough evidence to put him away for the rest of his life. He told Lucas that he has a chance of doing a shorter term in jail if he helps him in the case.

Lucas decides to provide names of numerous other criminals, including his and Richie’s common enemies: corrupted NYC detectives. Many corrupt cops are arrested, and Trupo kills himself to avoid arrest.

In the end, three quarters of NYC’s Drug Enforcement Agency are arrested and convicted. Some time after the Lucas trial, he eventually leaves the prosecutor’s office, and becomes a defense attorney. The first client he takes is Frank Lucas. Lucas receives 15 years in prison instead of 70 years. He was arrested in 1975.

In 1991, he was released and greeted by Richie as he accompany him along the streets. Lucas was surprised to see how the place and buildings has changed since he was put in prison. With road names changed and so forth.

Reviewer’s Note:
American Gangster focuses on Frank Lucas, a real-life American gangster in during the late 1960s-70s.

Every villain has their own agenda. Start from illegal to legal. But some people don’t change and some people greed for more.

Corruption was bad and it couldn’t get any worse even in the 21st century. It runs around like cancer. Unstoppable. 

From a nobody to somebody. Denzel Washington portrayed an ultimatum character with a man of his words. While Russell Crowe’s character is one tough honest person. He puts the law in order to prosecute even if they are his superiors.

One response to “American Gangster (2007) – REVIEW

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