Monday, November 26, 2007

Capsule Review: American Gangster

Movie: American Gangster
Director/Studio: Ridley Scott / Universal
10 Word Review: Alongside "solid" in the 2007 film yearbook, you'll find this.
Best Thing About It: The squishy morality of the whole thing is pretty interesting throughout. Scott never makes the mistake of denying what a charismatic figure the local drug lord can be, but the more interesting decision is how he employs the standard implosion of the criminal (the part of the movie where Ray Liotta sweats a lot and screams at Lorraine Bracco) and directs it outward. Frank Lucas doesn't destroy himself, he destroys his community. Similarly, Russell Crowe rides the virtuous lawman/shitty human being line.
Worst Thing About It: Well, after all that meticulous upkeep of the film's moral ambiguity, we get an ending where the two movie stars team up to take out the unambiguously bad cops. I understand it's based on a true story, but it's a total letdown, storywise.
Best Performance: Remember how after all that hoo-hah (so to speak) about DeNiro and Pacino facing off in Heat, and then DeNiro just blew Pacino away? It's kinda like that here, only Denzel loses out to Crowe by being the same old boring charmer Denzel he always is (as opposed to acting like a giant Christmas ham like Pacino did). Crowe doesn't win best in show honors by default, though. In fact, for an actor I haven't cared for for a long time, he's delivered two great performances this year, in this movie and 3:10 To Yuma. Props grudgingly given, you big, grumpy rageaholic.
Oscar Prospects: Lots, thanks to the robust box office and the pedigree of the director and stars. Right now, I'm saying it's in line for Picture, Director, and Actor (Washington) nominations, and all the tech nominations that would come with it.

Grade: B


StickyKeys said...

I knew it was based on a true story so I didn't mind the schlocky ending and I really loved the last shot of Frank just standing there in the Bumpy position like, "Well ain't this some sh*t?"

I also love that the lynchpin of his downfall was a fur coat, heh.

Plus the whole racial dynamic was interesting. How being black hindered and helped him, his fracas with the Italians and the other dirty cops, etc.

There were some extraneous bits, but overall I think solid is the correct term. I think Crowe did well, but I though Denzel was magnetic. But I guess you automatically have to have a bit of charm if you can shoot someone in the head and still make me feel for you later down the line.

Joe R. said...

God, yes, the tell-tale fur coat! Loved that.

I should also mention that if this movie nabs Ruby Dee her first Oscar nomination like people are saying, it'd be cosmic justice (she played Mother Abigail and Mother Sister!), but I'm still not sure what she'd have got nominated for.

StickyKeys said...

Joer PLEASE! You try slapping the piss out of Denzel without throwing up and then talk about the academy performance of Ms. Ruby Dee!

She slapped his soooooul... She should get an Oscar AND a grammy for the sound that slap made!

Seriously though, if she gets nominated for an Oscar it will really just be for catch up, and maybe for the fact that she's 2034 years old and still remembered most of her lines. And she slapped Denzel without flinching.