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Ridley Scott's gangster flick aims high and mostly measures up. Bob Mondello. Scott's not interested in fireworks but small implosions of the soul and ego.
Amy Nicholson. One of the most intelligent gangster movies in years. Paul Byrnes. Ridley Scott's American Gangster offers both belated history-lesson and demented hero-worship, and seems to be intended as a kind of gift to black America.
One hopes that black America will have nothing to do with it. Anthony Quinn. Scott is something of a romantic at heart.
His film is nowhere near as jaded or as hard-bitten as the '70s films such as The French Connection or Serpico that it hopes to echo.
Sukhdev Sandhu. Here's a startlingly original true-life story told in an oddly unoriginal way. And that attempt at instant classic status in the title doesn't quite convince.
It's got no more dark grandeur than American Idol. Peter Bradshaw. American Gangster is a modestly flawed yet consistently entertaining crime drama.
Richard Propes. A highly entertaining crime epic that may feel a little familiar, but succeeds thanks to the star power of its two leads.
Micheal Compton. Something akin to a time warp, stepping back into a time of higher filmmaking integrity and more personal visions.
Matthew Lucas. Though it's certainly admirable to aim high, it's like Frank Lucas himself says: "Either you're somebody, or you ain't nobody.
Ali Gray. It's minutes long, but immerses its audience with its twists and intricacies as it plays out and considers the logistics and consequences of crime and police corruption, with a plethora of show-stealing performances from the cast.
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American Gangster Critics Consensus American Gangster is a gritty and entertaining throwback to classic gangster films, with its lead performers firing on all cylinders.
See score details. Rate And Review Submit review Want to see. Super Reviewer. Rate this movie Oof, that was Rotten. What did you think of the movie?
Step 2 of 2 How did you buy your ticket? Let's get your review verified. Having to get used to the public life again after living like a 'ghost' since her release, the making of her partner's life on the big screen has brought back many memories, some good and some bad.
January 22, Archived from the original on March 3, Retrieved August 16, By the s, gangster and drug kingpin Frank Lucas had constructed an international drug ring that spanned from New York to South East Asia.
Oshun Publishing Company, Inc. New York Magazine. Archived from the original on February 20, The Temple News. February 18, The Guardian.
June 1, Inside Dateline. Archived from the original on February 2, Retrieved February 2, New York Post. Retrieved October 7, Toronto Star.
Archived from the original on February 8, American Gangster. October 31, Organized crime groups in New York City. Hells Angels Pagans. Clair's gang.
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Download as PDF Printable version. Wikimedia Commons. After negotiations with Terry George , it was later revived with Scott at the helm in March Principal photography commenced over a period of five months from July to December ; filming took place throughout New York City and concluded in Thailand.
Many of the people portrayed, including Roberts and Lucas, have stated that the film took much creative license with the story, and three former DEA agents sued Universal claiming the agency's portrayal was demoralizing.
When Johnson dies of a heart attack, Frank enters the heroin trade, buying directly from producers in Thailand and smuggling it into the U.
Frank sells his heroin under the brand "Blue Magic", whose affordability and purity makes it incredibly popular, wiping out much of his competition.
After his outcasted and addicted partner overdoses on Blue Magic, Captain Lou Toback puts Roberts in charge of a special task force that targets major local drug suppliers.
Roberts is also depicted having a bitter divorce with his ex-wife over his infidelity. Frank's heroin racket prospers; he eventually sells Blue Magic wholesale to many dealers in the New York Tri-State Area, and expands his distribution through other criminal organisations.
With this monopoly, Frank becomes Harlem's top crime lord, opening legitimate business fronts and maintaining a low profile, while becoming friends with politicians and famous celebrities such as Joe Louis.
He buys a mansion for his mother, and recruits his five brothers as his lieutenants. Frank eventually falls in love with and marries Eva, a Puerto Rican beauty queen.
He attends the Fight of the Century with her, where Roberts spots Frank, notices he has better seats than the Italian mobsters, and begins investigating him.
Frank also comes to odds with competing local gangster Nicky Barnes ; corrupt NYPD detective Nick Trupo, who is among many people Frank is forced to bribe; and the Corsican mafia , who make a failed assassination attempt on Frank and his wife for putting them out of business.
One night, Roberts' detectives witness one of Frank's cousins, Jimmy Zee, shoot his girlfriend; he becomes their informant in lieu of being convicted.
They make Jimmy wear a wire , through which they learn that Frank has negotiated one final shipment of heroin after the fall of Saigon.
They identify and search one of the last planes carrying Lucas' stock, discovering that it is being smuggled through the coffins of dead servicemen.
They follow the drugs into Newark's projects and obtain a warrant to raid Frank's heroin processing facility, which results in the arrest of Frank's brother Huey.
They then arrest the other four brothers, and finally Frank himself. During a trial against Frank, Roberts offers him a chance at leniency if he will help him expose corrupt police officers, to which Frank agrees.
Roberts becomes a defense attorney and has Frank as his first client. Frank is sentenced to 70 years in prison, of which he serves 15 years and is released in In , Universal Pictures and Imagine Entertainment purchased the rights to "The Return of Superfly", by Mark Jacobson , an article published in New York magazine story about the rise and fall of the s heroin kingpin Frank Lucas.
However, Scott did not immediately pursue the project, choosing to make Kingdom of Heaven instead. In March , the studio entered new negotiations with Antoine Fuqua to direct, as well as Denzel Washington to star in the film as Frank Lucas.
Production of Tru Blu was reset to begin in early fall , with the film slated for a release date of June 3, The studio also sought for American Gangster to be produced in Toronto rather than New York City to save money, but Fuqua resisted the re-location.
The studio's parent company General Electric received tax credits in New York City, so production was moved to the city. Fuqua's camp insisted that it was seeking ways to reduce the budget, but the studio argued about several aspects of the project under him.
The director had wanted to film a Vietnam sequence in Thailand and to cast notable names such as Ray Liotta and John C.
Reilly in minor roles. To add to the studio's budgetary concerns, Fuqua was rewriting the script during the pre-production process. The director did not have a shot-list, final locations, and supporting actors signed to initiate production.
Fuqua was fired on October 1, , four weeks before principal photography would begin. After Scott and Zaillian met on another project, Zaillian brought up the "Gangster" project again with Scott, who decided he was ready to do it.
Washington returned to his role as Lucas, and Russell Crowe was attached to star as Roberts. Scott had discussed the script with Crowe as they worked on A Good Year in France, and they sought to take on the project.
The director reviewed Zaillian's script, Terry George's rewrite, and a revision by Richard Price during the project's incarnation with director Antoine Fuqua.
Scott preferred Zaillian's approach and chose to follow it. The director encountered a challenge in the script, since the characters Frank Lucas and Richie Roberts do not encounter each other until twenty minutes before the end of the film.
The director sought to flesh out the private universes of these characters, which would evolve, and to have scenes cut between the two characters to provide a balance.
Elements such as Frank Lucas's interaction with his family and Richie Roberts's dysfunctional marriage were written to add to the characters' backgrounds.
The film somewhat focuses on the comparatively ethical business practices of the "wicked gangster" and the womanizing and failed marriage of the "do-gooder" police detective.
Washington, who was not normally a fan of gangster films, chose to portray Lucas when he saw "the arc of the character", which ended by showing the prices that Lucas paid for his actions.
To prepare for their roles, the actors met the actual persons. In addition, Washington took on Lucas' Southern accent, and Crowe practiced to match Roberts's manner of speaking and body language, requesting tape recordings of Roberts to assist in his preparation.
Principal photography began in July in New York City. Approximately fifty to sixty locations were set in Harlem alone. While in the neighbourhood, Scott stated that he found several interiors that had been untouched since the s.
According to production designer Arthur Max, exhaustive location scouting was done to find parts of New York that could still resemble the city of the early s, filming Lucas' headquarters at th Street 20 blocks north, on th Street.
Scott found filming in Harlem to be difficult, commenting that the rapid gentrification in Harlem provided poor opportunities for shooting angles.
Briarcliff Manor in upstate New York had the locations for both the Lucas farm and the estate Lucas buys for his family.
Using his experience from visiting New York in the same time period in which the film's story took place, Scott sought to downplay a " Beatles " atmosphere to the film and to instead create a shabbier atmosphere, saying that "Harlem was really, really shabby, beautiful brownstones falling apart.
Denzel Washington, as Frank Lucas, went through 64 different costume changes. In , Greg Calloway was approached by producers to produce a soundtrack for the film.
He presented the idea to Atlantic Records chairman Craig Kallman , and one of the company's artists, T.
However, the deal did not go further because Universal Pictures owned the rights to the film; "It was a Universal film and they were not going to give the soundtrack to WMG " Atlantic's parent company.
The composer stated that "the overall tone needed to be something bigger and darker" given the characters' strong personalities, and while not being the original intention, he added shades of blues and soul music to fit the s setting.
Additional score material was composed and recorded by Hank Shocklee. The official soundtrack album for American Gangster was released by Def Jam Recordings within a week of the film's release.
Denzel Washington pressed Grazer into inviting rapper Jay-Z to write the film's score, but the producer "just didn't think there'd be enough for Jay-Z to do" given the intentions to do a soundtrack filled with s music.
The film had a profound resonance on the musician, who decided to create a concept album, also entitled American Gangster.
It was speculated that the album's release in conjunction with the film would attract a young audience and help Universal Pictures generate profits to recover from the film's troubled development history.
It immediately clicked with me. Like Scarface or any one of those films, you take the good out of it, and you can see it as an inspiring film.
The film experienced similar success overseas. It ranked as the 19th highest-grossing film of both domestically and worldwide.
The home release included an unrated extended version of the film, featuring 18 additional minutes and an alternative ending.
A mobile game based on the film was released by Gameloft on November 1. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film a perfect four star rating and opined, "This is an engrossing story, told smoothly and well.
IGN 's Jim "Stax" Vejvoda rated the film four out of five stars, praising the acting—particularly of the two protagonists, "both dynamic presences on-screen, with neither actor outweighing the other's importance to the story"—and declaring that despite being preceded by other gangster stories such as Scarface and The Sopranos , American Gangster managed to justify its existence with "emphasis on the human and class elements of the story".
In comparison, some reviewers were more critical of American Gangster. Jonathan Crocker of Time Out London was polarized with the film, criticizing its aesthetics.
In his review, he wrote, "Scott's meticulous aesthetics can't touch the urban texture and deep focus of The French Connection , The Godfather , Serpico and Prince of the City — all looming heavily in intertextual nods.
Similarly, Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly gave the film a 'C-' grade, expressing that American Gangster is "never dull, but it could have used more good old-fashioned melodramatic intrigue.
Slant Magazine journalist Nick Schager harshly criticized the film, giving the film a one out of four stars.
Schager remarked that the film was "dumb as a rock", and that it was "far too convinced of its import to be any fun. That shoulder-shimmying swagger is rarely seen, and the brand-classic robes of American Gangster sit on him heavily.
Roberts criticized the portrayal of Lucas, describing it as "almost noble".