American Gangster

Denzel Washington goes the bad-guy route again in Ridley Scott’s snazzy yet unsteady American Gangster. As usual, when Denzel occupies a movie, he’s the primary reason to see it, but Scott’s capturing of late-’60s and early-’70s Harlem is impressive, and having Russell Crowe in the mix certainly helps. But ultimately, the teaming of these three cinema giants is passable, uneven entertainment—and not much more. Washington plays Frank Lucas, the infamous American heroin dealer who made millions by cutting out the middleman, getting his drugs straight from Southeast Asia and selling them from a tenement factory in Harlem. He would use military transports to get drugs into the country, including the coffins of dead soldiers. The film is good-looking, and the performers are strong, but it feels abbreviated with a tacked-on ending. Too bad, because it could’ve really been something.

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