Pros:Great writing, acting and sets.
Cons:Compromised the integrity of good officers.
The Bottom Line: I would highly recommend American Gangster with the caveat that the ending is a lie. No DEA Agents were indicted as a result of Lucas arrest.
I have waited over a month since seeing American Gangster to write my review. The movie was an exceptionally well produced movie. I wanted to give myself time to write a review that would be fair to the cinematic aspects of the movie in spite of the short-comings in the truthfulness of this film. I will rate this movie purely on it's cinematic qualities, but will get on my soapbox to set the record straight. This film was fundamentally unfair and untruthful in respect to the allegedly factual statement at the end of the movie regarding the prosecution of 3/4 of the NY DEA following Frank Lucas' arrest. That statement is purely a lie and Universal Studios will probably find themselves in a class action lawsuit to defend against the defamation of hundreds of brave men who served the city of New York and the United States during the investigation of Frank Lucas. First, about the film...
Although several fabrications were woven into this story to make for good cinema, the dialogue in this movie was exceptional. It was a gripping story that was captivating and interesting. The fact that it is based on true events makes it even more interesting. I should note that the movie failed in accurately portraying the role NYC DEA played in prosecuting Lucas over a year before New Jersey ever got a chance at prosecution. Additionally, Lucas wife was assaulted in the movie, during a search of the house, where money was allegedly stolen during the course of the search. The assault and theft never happened. In Lucas deposition to the US Attorney's Office following his arrest, he stated that the money in his house was a weekend's take and thought that half a million dollars sounded about right. The statement at the end of the movie about 3/4 of the NY DEA being indicted following Lucas' arrest was also false. In a movie based on factual events, I expect a little bit of drama. But a written statement at the end of the movie is not taken as drama, but fact. Universal Studios should be absolutely ashamed of themselves for this unwarranted defamation of the honorable men and women of the NYPD and DEA.
Now that I'm off my soapbox, I would like to comment on the all star cast. Russell Crowe and Denzel Washington in a movie directed by Ridley Scott. Wow. The exceptional acting that you would expect from a group like this is exactly what is delivered. Throw in Josh Brolin, Cuba Gooding Jr., Ted Levine and others, and you have a phenomenal group of actors who contributed to a flawless piece of drama. (Flawless in the sense of the acting). This was one of the best movies of 2007, largely due to the acting.
The special effects were solid. There were not many scenes in this movie that required a great deal of special effects, but the attention to detail was exceptional. This movie takes place in the 1970s in New York City, New Jersey and Viet Nam. Creating backgrounds and details that stay true to that era is not an easy task. I watched for inconsistencies in the time period, but did not notice any. The wardrobes were also exceptionally done.
This movie has received much critical acclaim from Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations to Top Ten lists for movies from 2007. This film grossed well over 200 Million dollars. That indicates that it had tremendous viewership. The movie deserves the accolades it has gotten, but it makes me sick that this many people were exposed to the defamation of honorable men.
This movie was rated R by the MPAA. This rating was well deserved. There are several very violent scenes in this movie as well as coarse language. This movie was about a major narcotics dealer, so obviously, there is excessive dialogue and visual depictions about drug use. This movie also contained nudity. I would recommend restricting adolescents from watching this film. This film is probably fine for children in their mid-teens or older.
It really hurts me to give this film the rating it is due. Everything about this film deserves five stars, but I am obviously stuck on the fact that Universal has not retracted their statements in this film defaming these officers. There were several factual errors (the money never came home in coffins, no money was stolen from Lucas' home, his wife was not assaulted by agents, and the DEA agents were not indicted). If the errors were part of telling an otherwise true story, I could overlook them. But when they change the story itself, I have a problem with that. Especially at the cost of someone's reputation. That is inexcusable. I am certain it will be remedied....a good portion of that 200 million dollar box office is probably going to find it's way into a settlement. I personally feel all of it should. I don't like liars that perpetuate a myth because it's good story-telling. My final recommendation is four stars out of a possible five. If you watch this movie on DVD, disregard the ending...it's a blatant lie.
One Final Note About The Lawsuit
Frank Lucas was investigated by and ultimately prosecuted and convicted by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration in New York City, prior to his trial in New Jersey. Many of the events depicted in this film involved the federal DEA. NYPD does not have a DEA, they had a Special Investigations Unit, which was not involved in this prosecution. Universal is claiming that the end credits are referring to members of the NYPD, when it clearly states DEA. The DEA is a federal agency, and the use of that term by Universal Studios is an indictment of the honorable men of that agency who successfully prosecuted Lucas. It is an abomination that Universal Studio has dug in, rather than correcting this statement. All it would take is amending the end credits to read something other than DEA. Universal's refusal to make this right is typical of the Hollywood elitists who can not admit that they are wrong. Or,maybe they intended to defame the DEA. I really don't know or care what their INTENT was. I know that their INTENT at this point is to be stubborn and not make things right. I hope they lose every dime they made on this film to the guys who actually put Lucas in jail. THAT would be Poetic Justice.
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