All the cliches, well executed. It zips along, the characters are fun, the period is dynamic and it does chart that moment when organised crime went from Goodfellas to the modern gang structure of today, which is an interesting shift. It's a light film, slick and entertaining for the most part. And that's fine.
Brainless and even not fun. There's not many 3 hour gangster epics that never-ever get out of neutral, nor are as badly melodramatc and hammy as this. The characters are thinly written and completely archetypal (Crowe's squeaky clean cop, Washington's family-man mobster,) and it's rarely entertaining and never dramatic. Scott's only knowledge of the subgenre is the length, making it one of the dullest of its type.
Another example of the embellishment of crime, how it provides a rags to riches story, glorifying the power and street-rep some asshole got from the offscreen misery it enabled. Denzel playing himself, as usual. American rappers getting to dress up like they were back in the 70's without having to make a music video.
'American Gangster' is a great crime film with a commanding performance from Denzel Washington as true life Harlem drug-lord, Frank Lucas. Ridley Scott directs the film and its layered, tight script terrifically. If you want to watch an all-around solid gangster flick, this story of Frank Lucas and the cops looking to take him down is one definitely worth checking out.
extended version Under appreciated crime epic from Ridley Scott with a rich script by Scott and Steve Zaillian. The film is a slow burner, much like Mann's 'Heat', with many rich moments in its' period capture. Performances are top notch from leads Washington and Crowe with solid turns from most of the cast especially the non-credited Clarence Williams III. It's no 'Prince of the City' mind you but what is?