STUDIO: Paramount Home Video
MSRP: $24.99
RATED: Not rated
RUNNING TIME: 420 minutes
Melvin Williams extended interview
Frank Lucas extended interview
Frank Lucas, Jr. interview and tour
Bo Baines extended interview

The Pitch

Season 2 of the worst America has to offer…excluding Bush’s cabinet.

The Humans

Ving Rhames, John Muhammad & Lee Boyd Malvo, Frank Lucas, Felix Mitchell, Jeff Fort, Lerry Hoover, others.

The Nutshell

More stories of some of the most ruthless, cunning and infamous Black criminal masterminds in American history, including the New York gangster who inspired a Denzel Washington / Russell Crowe film, the two D.C. Snipers, and an Oakland drug kingpin who, upon his murder in Leavenworth Federal Pen, was given a Bay Area funeral big enough to rival any head of state or celebrity.

It was a good thing the Feds eventually caught Frank Lucas, ’cause otherwise PETA would have nailed him for sure…

The Lowdown

American Gangster returns for a second season of captivating biographies of some of the most interesting criminals in recent American history. The subjects of this season run the gamut from serial killer snipers to a celebrity New York drug kingpin to Chicago radical Muslim drug mastermind to a man who robbed more than 60 banks. Each story is told with a gritty realism that doesn’t pull any punches on the truth nor in showing the results of these criminals’ exploits, including bodies in the streets and destroyed neighborhoods.

Webster’s Dictionary: Sick Fuck.

Gangster, in addition to telling the stories of these men on the wrong side of the law, manages to weave their individual stories into the tapestry of how they were shaped by, and in turn ended up shaping, American history at crucial stages of the last fifty years. Some of the effects of their exploits are still ongoing to this very day. Several of the criminals you may not be familiar with, but their stories are just as riveting as some of their more famous counterparts. And each is narrated by Ving Rhames, who takes us on a tour of the seedier side of America that was, in many instances, a direct result of these men and their criminal empires.

Sick Fuck In Training.

Probably he most notable man on this season’s list is Frank Lucas, the Harlem drug kingpin who was recently portrayed by Denzel in the film American Gangster. Lucas came from the South to become the student and henchman of the infamous old school gangster, Bumpy Johnson. Upon Johnson’s death, Lucas took over and amassed a heroin empire that he built by forging a direct link with suppliers from Asia’s Golden Triangle during the Vietnam War. By maintaining a policy of keeping to the shadows and providing a better product at a cheaper price, Lucas was able to completely circumvent the established Italian Mafia and become the undeniable kind of the New York drug underworld. 

Sadly, these days, the item on the left will only get you a pinch of the item on the right…

For a long time, the authorities had no idea who he was nor what he had managed to do. Lucas’ story is unique among many of the stories told this season because he’s one of the few subjects of the show who is either not in prison or dead. He is interviewed extensively in the episode featuring his story and he’s able to take you deeper inside his tale than many of the others.

Two other notables are John Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo, the two D.C. Snipers who murdered ten people over a three week period in the fall of 2002. They managed to stay anonymous and ahead of the police by rigging a space in the trunk of their car from which they could clandestinely shoot their victims. It was only their missteps of referring to a prior shooting in the South and toying with the cops that proved their downfall.  And all with the eventual goal of Muhammad killing his estranged wife so he could reclaim his three kids.

Jeff Fort: “I’m going to have to take the Fifth on that question.”
Congress: “But we only asked you your name.”
Jeff Fort: “Exactly…”

Felix Mitchell was the Oakland drug lord who centralized and vertically integrated his operation just like Nino Brown in New Jack City.  He liked to dress in designer suits and ride in limos and Ferraris. He was eventually arrested and sent to Leavenworth on a life sentence. After he was murdered in prison, his funeral was easily one of – if not the biggest – in Oakland history.  He’s still revered in some circles in the city as an old school type of gangster. Some argue that things in Oakland to this day have spiraled out of control once his control over the drug trade was ended.  One of the commentators of his story is Oakland area rapper Too Short.

There are other stories such as Chicago area Muslim and gang leader Jeff Fort, who allegedly had a plan cooking with Khadafy to incite domestic terror. Melvin Williams, a Baltimore heroin dealer inspired the TV series The Wire.  Larry Hoover was the mastermind behind the deadly Chicago street gang, The Disciples. Chaz Williams robbed over 60 banks and later reformed to start Black Hand Entertainment. Kenneth “Supreme” McGriff was a Queens drug dealer and later a movie producer in Hollywood. Rayful Edmonds was D.C.’s most notorious crack dealer who hooked up with the Medellin drug cartel. The Philly Black Mafia is also spotlighted.

American Gangster?  No.  American Pimp?  You bet your ass…

American Gangster is still bringing it in terms of quality biographies. I’d take this show any day over a True Hollywood Story about Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears or some other bubble-headed celeb. 

The Package

The look of this show is usually gritty, as it relies heavily on archival footage and photos. But they employ a nice 3-D element to those photos often and also testimonials from people who were closely associated with the various men being spotlighted. There are four main special features: a Melvin Williams extended interview, a Frank Lucas extended interview, a Frank Lucas, Jr. interview and tour and a Bo Baines (Philly Black Mafia) extended interview.

7.4 out of 10