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American Gangster





The film simultaneously tracks the ascension of 1970s Harlem drug kingpin Frank Lucas and narcotics cop Richie Roberts' (Russell Crowe) efforts to break NYC's heroin connection. One man loses a soul; another gains self-respect. Thugs in Borsalino hats and dirty cops (especially the one portrayed by an oily Josh Brolin) are endlessly fascinating. Crime pays -- and then it doesn't. What keeps Gangster entertaining is Denzel Washington as Lucas (all satin smooth, with lightning flashes of rage) and a handful of perfect little scenes, such as the awkward high-class lunch Lucas shares with a Mafia boss (Armand Assante). Lucas, of course, is a glorious perversion of the American dream -- a poor black kid from the Jim Crow South, who assimilates upward with savvy and ease. His downfall isn't his illegal product or his bloody hands; it's his intersection with Roberts, the squeaky-clean cop who won't cash in his dirty dream ticket, Lucas' kickbacks.

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