We don’t expect so much from Sir Ridley Scott these days â€” we know, we know, that 17-hour director’s cut of "Kingdom of Heaven" is supposed to be so totally awesome that it could broker its own Israeli-Palestinian peace accord â€” but we had hoped "American Gangster" would be badass fun. It’s not. It is, for the most part, plodding and circumspect, packed with faux-70s grit and so in love with the dapper, restrained gentleman side of its drug lord Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington) that it implies his downfall is mainly the result of being forced to wear a chinchilla coat by his wife. It does come to a conclusion that seems so goofy and implausible it couldn’t not be true, and so it seems to be: Richard G. Jones in the New York Times talks to actual cop-turned-prosecutor Richard M. Roberts, played in the film by Russell Crowe, about his friendship with Lucas, who refused to speak to the reporter. "’I canâ€™t explain it,’ Mr. Roberts said with a shrug and a wan smile when asked about his friendship with Mr. Lucas. ‘What he did disgusts me. But here we are.’"
Meanwhile, three New Jersey cops quibble with "Gangster"’s timeline and treatment of Roberts to Adam Nichols at the New York Daily News, to which Lucas does respond: "’I’m not going to credit them with getting me,’ said Lucas, who became an informant under Roberts’ prodding. ‘Those three cops couldn’t catch a cold.’"
Over at MTV, Shawn Adler talks to a few of the rappers who play side characters:
"It’s called ‘American Gangster,’ understand?" Brooklyn rapper RZA declared. "We’ve all got this American dream. Black, white, Asian … it doesn’t matter. I think [Lucas] really fits that American dream, even though it’s the negative side. He brought his whole family up from the South. Thanksgiving, everybody got a turkey. All that kind of stuff is the American dream."
Josh Rottenberg at Entertainment Weekly chats with Crowe and Washington (who actually share very few scenes in the film):
Well, if someone was looking for political overtones in American Gangster, they could certainly find some.
CROWE: With this next movie I’m about to do with Ridley [the espionage thriller Body of Lies,
costarring Leonardo DiCaprio], he said to me, ”I see your character as
the embodiment of American foreign policy. You’re fat, pustulant, and
you have a weeping sore. Are you okay with that?” I said, ”No
problem, mate.” [Laughs] You know, I worked with Leonardo when he was 18 [on the Western The Quick and the Dead].
He was a virgin, and he would talk about that constantly. So I’m hoping
we have some time so he can fill in what’s happened in between. Maybe
show some photos. Because I’m sure life’s different now.
WASHINGTON: He’s a good actor, man. Done some good work.
+ A New Jersey Crime Storyâ€™s Hollywood Ending (NY Times)
+ 3 ex-N.J. police say ‘American Gangster’ rewrites history (NY Daily News)
+ RZA, Common Realize Their Own ‘American’ Dream: To Act (MTV)
+ Clash of the Titans (Entertainment Weekly)