Formulaic biopic worth seeing

Movie Review “American Gangster”Universal Pictures3.5 StarsIf you have ever seen and enjoyed “Blow,” “Scarface” or almost any Martin Scorsese film, you will undoubtedly like “American Gangster.” Directed by Ridley Scott, this movie has all the elements of an epic moneymaker: big name stars, violence and heroin.The plot is one we’ve seen many times before: the disregarded, minor criminal rises to wealth and respect by selling drugs while the honorable, small-time cop tries to rid him and the rest of the drug market from the streets. However, this film has the benefit of Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe, playing the infamous heroin kingpin Frank Lucas and the hardworking detective Richie Roberts, respectively. The movie continually manipulates the roles of villain and hero. Lucas is revealed as the sensitive, smart and charismatic mobster, good to his family and the poor Harlem community that he supports while Roberts is shunned by the police department and cannot even take care of his son on the weekends. Lucas builds his empire during the late 1960s by cutting out the middleman in the heroin market by going to Vietnam himself to purchase the drugs. With the help of army officials, policemen and his own extended family, Lucas creates a criminal organization with a heroin market more powerful than even the Italian Mafia.The movie is loaded with big named actors and celebrities, including Cuba Gooding Jr., RZA, Common and T.I. Most of the performances are believable and thoughtful, even, surprisingly, T.I.’s. Not to worry, Denzel and Crowe are given plenty of monumental monologues accompanied by the expected bad ass attitudes, expressions and clothing. Set in New York during the late 1960s and early 1970s, featured R&B artists such as Bobby Womack and Sam & Dave added to the authenticity of the movie. Written by screenwriter Steve Zaillian, the script was realistic and dealt with serious issues such as drugs, violence, family and responsibility. “American Gangster” is an extremely entertaining movie, yet predictable in its traditional format. With outstanding actors, top-notch production and Kornbread seated right behind me in the theater, the film is worth the two hours and 37 minutes.