Sunday, February 24, 2008

American Gangster


American Gangster pits a drug kingpin and a policeman against each other. Based on a true story, it chronicles the rise of a drug czar in Harlem in the late 60s as well as a dedicated cop's slow but steady zeroing in on him. With two interesting, well-matched characters and two powerful actors playing them, it is a solid, gripping thriller.

Washington and Crowe both portray flawed individuals but Washington's Lucas is definitely the more interesting of the two. The brazen way he exploits the Vietnam war(which was a dark time for the rest of America) and the fact that his product destroys families(there are some quick but still heart-breaking images of people overdosing) make him rather hateful but there's no doubt that he is charismatic. He has a short fuse and is a bundle of contradictions, even to people he loves. Crowe's Richie is not a good husband or father but there's no question that he is honest. His devotion to his mission and the way he zeroes in on Lucas are what make him interesting.

The film builds Washington and Crowe as foes as it charts Washington's rise to the top of the drug business and Crowe's move to the narcotics squad. It contrasts them nicely as Washington leads a corrupt business but is good to his family while Crowe has a flawed private life but is completely honest as a cop. But it never makes their paths cross openly until the very end and that is a tad disappointing. After building two strong characters on opposite sides of the law, the movie doesn't exploit it and is content to let them travel their own paths most of the time. A few encounters(like in Pollaadhavan), overt or otherwise, would've added a lot more energy to the proceedings.

Not that things get explosive when the two meet either. There are a few initial sparks as Washington taunts and tempts Crowe and the latter resists him but then things get quite subdued. Ofcourse that is understandable since this is a true story but when you have two strong actors on opposite sides of a table, its a bit disappointing to not get some heavy fireworks.

6 Comments:

At 8:41 AM, Anonymous Prin said...

Might be a bit irrelevant but contuning from the last post:

Sandya, why did Indolink/TTV stop? I mean, I've really been caught onto the archives for ages. It was awesome...?

 
At 12:27 PM, Anonymous Silanthimanithan said...

Balaji,

The reason the director has not shown the two main leads interacting earlier on in the movie is because thats exactly how it happened in real life too. This whole movie was based on a true story and there are some extremely interesting bonus features that follow on the second DVD that has interviews with the real-life Frank Lucas and Richie Roberts along with their cinematic versions. Ridley Scott(Who made Gladiator and Alien among other movies) stuck to the Realistic genre here and has not compromised by adding masala effects.

 
At 5:17 PM, Anonymous ram said...

bb, i really loved the movie. thought the performances were great, esp. denzel's. kalakitaan...
i liked the little details like denzel's trip to s.e. asia to get the drugs "fresh"...evoked "goodfellas" at a few places, esp. the scene where denzel goes into a fit of rage, totally mad at his wife for having bought him a very expensive jacket (reminded me of robert de niro saying, "fat f--k ought to wear a sign!" in goodfellas)

 
At 6:03 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

silanthimanithan, yes, as i mentioned in the last para, I understand that the fact that it is a true story stopped ridley scott from adding masala. but i was just expressing my disappointment seeing it just as a movie :)

ram, that 'coat' scene was awesome, esp. since that was what brought him to crowe's notice and so led to his eventual arrest. and scott earlier set it up nicely in that bar scene where denzel brings his cousin to task for dressing too outlandishly :)

 
At 11:05 AM, Anonymous Sandya said...

Prin, well, the answer to your question, as cliched as it sounds is, Economics. We had a difference of opinion with the owner of the domain over getting paid for the services we rendered to the site.

To make a long story short, time, tide and other responsibilities topped off with economic needs, put TTV into it's grave. I guess, it was just time to move on for most of us.

Thanks for the compliments about the archives. I do receive e-mails once every two odd years from people who still read all the archives even today. It's quite refreshing!..

 
At 10:00 AM, Blogger Hawkeye said...

/* It contrasts them nicely as Washington leads a corrupt business but is good to his family while Crowe has a flawed private life but is completely honest as a cop. */

Very nice observation.

 

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