Sunday, November 25, 2007

TRH Movie - American Gangster

So Zesty and I decided to go and see a movie together yesterday afternoon, and we had both thought that American Gangster might just be the kind of flick for a no-boys afternoon. She picked me up at 3 PM, after I had spend a delicious lunch-brunch with Sam and Sadie, and we drove off to the Queensway only to discover the film's 4 PM show time had been cancelled. I whipped out my blackberry, we got back in the car, and we ended up in good time at the Paramount downtown only to discover that its afternoon showing had too been switched around. So, back in the car we got, racing up to the Varsity only to get there absolutely in time for the 4:20 show (snacks and seats saved in time to actually even get to see the commercials before the previews).

Was the film worth all that? Maybe not. I mean, it's not a bad movie by any standards, but it's certainly not the best picture I've seen this fall of truly excellent movies. In some ways, it felt like a substandard season of The Wire crammed into one two-and-a-half hour film. Sure, the performances are good, but it's certainly not the lean, mean film that it absolutely could have been. Denzel Washington plays Frank Lucas, a gangster who revolutionizes the drug trade in NYC during the heyday of the 70s, when over half the cops in the city were crooked and on the take. Russell Crowe plays one of the only honest cops on the block, Ritchie Roberts, who gets assigned to a new drug task force after turning in close to a million dollars in unmarked bills, much to his partner's chagrin. The back and forth between Lucas and Roberts starts slowly, as both try to stay under the radar of one another, just trying to do their respective jobs. With the appearance of Blue Magic, a better product at a lower price, all of that changes.

There's nothing subtle about the film, and that doesn't mean it's not a good picture, but you get the feeling Washington's playing the same character he played in Training Day, which was never my favourite of his films. The fine line Lucas draws between the kind of businessman he imagines himself to be and the business that he's in remains the most interesting part of the character. And Crowe's missing the same spark he had in the earlier 3:10 to Yuma, a film that saw him perhaps not rest entirely upon his laurels. But I'd argue in this film, there was never a moment where I felt I hadn't seen the same story before told in much of the same way. I'd be curious to see which movies from this heady fall season are still standing come Oscar time, and I have no doubt that this one will be recognized, regardless of whether or not its truly deserving. A solid B-, I would think.

1 comment:

Nathan said...

Hey. I found your blog when looking for American Gangster info. Thanks for the review. I didn't think I'd like it but I did. It was quite a stretch compared to the Bible Experience which he was also in that I've been listening to.