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STUDIO:
Universal

MSRP: $29.98

RATED:
R

RUNNING TIME:
174 min

SPECIAL FEATURES:
 

  • Unrated Extended Version
  • Commentary on Original Theatrical
    Version with Director Ridley Scott and Writer Steven Zaillian
  • Deleted Scenes / Alternate Opening
  • Fallen Empire: Making American Gangster
  • Case Files: Behind the Scenes



The Pitch

Frank Lucas conquers the Underworld and only one man can
bring him down.

The Humans

Denzel Washington, Russell Crowe, Ted Levine, Ruby Dee,
Common, Armand Assante, Josh Brolin, Chiwetel Ejiofor, John Ortiz and Cuba
Gooding, Jr.

 
The Red Dragon LARP always ended poorly.

The Nutshell

American Gangster brings a street level view to the harsh
tactics of kingpin Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington). Lucas climbed to the top of
Harlem’s drug empire, while only one man dared to bring
him down. Loner cop Richie Roberts (Russell Crowe) fights against the odds, as
Lucas starts to realize how fragile his empire has become.

The Lowdown

Ridley Scott has been in top form since Gladiator took him
back onto Hollywood’s A-List. Scott
approaches Frank Lucas’s rise to power in smaller tones than the work that
brought him back into the limelight. If you’re expecting heavy-handed theatrics
and giant set pieces, then you need to look somewhere else. This is a veteran
director entering the last great era of his career. Scott has chosen to go into
the cinema of the subdued.

 
Frank Lucas always loved to dress like early era Rocky Balboa.

That works great, as we get the slow build necessary to show
off Frank Lucas’s origins. We follow Lucas to the jungles of Vietnam
where he learns to cut pure heroin that he can move on the streets. By the time
that the action moves into Harlem, Richie Roberts gets
pushed into the fold quietly. Russell Crowe does a great job with the role of
renegade cop Roberts.

It’s just that he’s so timid and unassuming in the role that
Washington nearly blows him off
the screen. Crowe experiments a lot in his work with Ridley Scott and it serves
him well for the most part. Fans that carry certain expectations of him and
what he brings to the gangster flick at hand won’t understand where he is
building the character. Then, there’s the matter of the supporting players that
never got the chance to fully develop. I still don’t get how Ruby Dee got that
Oscar nomination when she was onscreen for barely ten minutes.

 
Russell Crowe and I have two things in common. We have the same suit and we both appreciate A Good Year just a smidge too much.

American Gangster works as a film of many parts that never
quite move together towards a common goal. Scott’s efforts in telling a crime
drama that feels more Lumet than Scarface is much appreciated. It’s just that
it never connects with that certain something that elevates a genre film into a
classic. Trying to find where a film fell apart is no easy task. But, a tighter
focus on the Roberts/Lucas dynamic could’ve only helped to bring in a tighter
film.  

The Package

American Gangster arrives on DVD
with a 2-disc Collector’s Edition that touts a nineteen minute longer extended
cut. This longer cut only extends scenes past the point of comfortable pacing.
The extra times turns an already slow film into a sluggish film that never
knows when to end.

 
The Moustache has Two Faces.

The A/V Quality on the DVD
is disappointing. The transfer is really muddy and the color palette seems
blown out of sorts. The extended cut fares worse, as it looks like Universal
didn’t even bother to properly tint the extended scenes. What makes the
transfer even more disappointing is how well the Dolby 5.1 track sounds. It’s
almost a slap in the face to put such a reference quality audio track on an
ugly looking film.

Steven Zaillian and Ridley Scott were recorded separately
for the audio commentary that’s featured on the theatrical cut. If you’ve heard
one Ridley Scott commentary, then you’ve heard them all. Universal gives most
of the commentary to Scott who goes for long stretches of silence in between
tidbits about the technical aspects of the film. Zaillian says so little that I
almost forgot he was on the commentary. The deleted scenes don’t add much to
the DVD, but the Fallen Empire documentary
makes up for it.

 
Virtuosity 2: Let’s Get Cyberin’ will go before cameras once Denzel and Russell can talk Brett Leonard out of Man-Thing Rides Again.

Fallen Empire takes the viewer from the initial film setup
with Antoine Fuqua as director towards Ridley Scott’s involvement. From there,
the technical aspects of the film are broken down and we’re brought into one of
the most detailed production diaries that I’ve ever seen. If that wasn’t
enough, you get three short Case Files featurettes that spotlight different
aspects of the fake drugs, technical work behind making the cops look like cops
and the drug bust at the heart of the film. For so much work crammed into a
2-disc set, it’s just a shame that the transfer couldn’t have been better.

 

9.0 out of 10