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I wrote a much longer post, in which I detailed what I liked and didn’t like about the movie. After I was finished, I realized that all I was doing was re-hashing what my “esteemed” colleagues have already stated. So, instead of critiquing the movie, I’ve decided to scrap my earlier draft (just assume it was ridiculously well written and insightful) and critique my blog-mates’ posts (which I’m sure they’ll all love and end up falling all over themselves inviting me to do other blogs with them).

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Brian summed up my thoughts on American Gangster perfectly when he wrote that it “lacked sizzle.” I don’t think I can find a specific fault in the film. All the components were at least good if not great, but the sum of the parts did not add up to something that leapt off the screen and grabbed me.

Denzel Washington’s Frank Lucas was certainly more compelling than Russell Crowe’s Det. Richie Roberts. His brilliant and ruthless consolidation of power and smart business moves to both rise to the top and remain hidden from the authorities make for an exciting story. Lucas has the makings of a classic evil genius character: very intelligent, always one step ahead, and brutal, like an entrepreneurial and less cannibalistic Hannibal Lector. He doesn’t quite make it to that level, but it is fun to watch along the way.
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Brian, I look forward to thoroughly taking apart your specious arguments and wrong impressions about this year’s Oscar contenders. Unfortunately, that won’t be the case here. I find it interesting that you reference so many movies in your post. You probably take more time discussing other movies than American Gangster. By the way, just because a movie is under two hours, that doesn’t make it “taut.” French Connection may be a classic, but that doesn’t mean it is a good movie.

To me, I think you are referencing other movies in an attempt to underscore American Gangster‘s plainness.

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From conversations with some of you, it appears we’re pretty much on the same page. I found American Gangster entertaining and well-made, but overall unsatisfying. Perhaps it was because of the businessman-like demeanor of Denzel’s Frank Lucas, or because of the lack of interaction between him and Russell Crowe’s Richie Roberts, but the film lacked the sizzle and electrifying suspense of last year’s violent gang film, The Departed.

Which isn’t to say that Gangster was looking to emulate the 2007 Best Picture winner, you can leave that to last month’s flop We Own the Night. Clearly, Ridley Scott looked to Scorcese’s earlier masterpiece Goodfellas and its own logical predecessor The Godfather for inspiration. And while the comparison is probably unfair, Gangster fails to emerge from the shadow of either of them.

(My comments will continue, after the jump. As with all posts on this blog, spoiler alerts within.)

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July 2020