American Gangster

Denzel. Who could make a movie more appealing, right? Too bad this one had Russell Crowe in it. Usually a negative point in my book.

The thing is, this movie reversed every single expectation I had. Russell Crowe was actually quite good, more convincing as a strong, if slightly odd, Jersey cop while Denzel stood out as the whitest black man in a black man’s world. I don’t mean to sound racist or politically incorrect, but Denzel is so far beyond getting in character at this point. It’s impossible not to recognize him on screen, to see him as a product of elitist Hollywood rather than the attractive actor he is and, more importantly, once was. Even weirder is the fact that these two deservedly well-respected actors didn’t share the screen until the very end. WTF Ridley Scott?

Oh yeah, and my beef with Ridley? Um, stop creating self-masturbatory movies. This one was about 45 minutes too long, and that statement is coming from a girl who can take “Reds” and “Once Upon a Time in the West” and “The Sound of Music.” I appreciate a well-made, lengthy movie and I hate it when people discount movies due to their length; it just isn’t right. But this one just wasn’t right, either. The chase scenes were too long, too unnecessary, too hastily composed. Some of the dialogue and supposed “investigative work” that Richie Roberts, NJ cop, was doing was in fact a ploy to give R. Crowe (whom I still can’t really stand even though I respect him as an actor) some mean face time on screen. Lord knows Crowe demanded it.

Man, this movie had so much potential. It’s so interesting to me that it was based on a true story—I would have liked to know more about Frank Lucas’ childhood, his wife, his moving-through-the-ranks, his relationship (or lack thereof) to the wiseguys in New York, whom he supposedly dominated in the heroin trade. That’s all interesting stuff, because the investigation shown in the movie was all padding. Maybe I’ve been watching “The Wire” for too long. It’s impossible to land a guy like Frank Lucas, or Avon Barksdale for that matter, without stretching it to many hours. Yet if you want to pack a punch in a movie, you’re going to have to construct it properly. Watch “The Godfather,” Ridley. That’s a good example of a gangster movie.

And next time, partner up with Jay-Z in the soundtrack. I was sort of expecting it…