CRIME DRAMA; 2hr 37min
STARRING: Denzel Washington, Russell Crowe
El supremo: Washington
In the early 1970s, Richie Roberts (a serviceable Crowe) is a straight-up, plainclothes New York detective, while Frank Lucas (Washington) is a supremo Harlem gangster. Both men do business as they see ethically fit, with ladies man Roberts as uncompromising in his honesty as family guy Lucas is in his tactical brilliance as a kingpin heroin dealer. Flying the drug into the US from Southeast Asia in the coffins of American soldiers, Lucas builds an evil empire to eclipse them all.
With his soulful, deliberate manner, Washington brings to Lucas a paradoxical dignity. Roberts is a shambolic contrast, but he is no tactical slouch, either: as scripted by Steve Zaillian, director Ridley Scott’s tight-packed, factually inspired jigsaw lays out the detective’s pursuit of the wickedly clever wheeler-dealer — and through him, the corrupt bulk of NYPD’s narcotics squad — as a mental match of opposites. American Gangster is a solid, watchable cat-and-mouser, more procedural than psychologically profound but light on its feet at two-plus hours and with a denouement as brutal as the business it exposes.