Friday, November 30, 2007

American Gangster

Here's another reason my in-laws rule: my mother-in-law Clary watched Will on Saturday so Jana and I could go watch a movie we had been wanting to see: American Gangster. If you haven't heard of it, it stars Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe.

Denzel is mafia legend Frank Lucas, who rules New York while bringing in top-quality herion from southeast Asia in the caskets of fallen soldiers in Vietnam. Roberts is the straight-shooting cop with the messed-up personal life who eventually brings him down, then brings down the crooked narcotics-fighting operations of the NYPD.

It was a good movie, worthwhile if that sort of genre is something you enjoy. For me, it was just another in a line of movies and shows that I have enjoyed in which the criminal is the hero: The Sopranos, The Godfather, New Jack City, etc. (Bet New Jack City has never been in the same sentence as the other two before.)

Frank Lucas is a brilliant businessman. He realizes that the business model of other drug dealers is flawed - they're not vertically integrated - so he works out a better model and exploits it for all it's worth. He is also ruthlessly disciplined, and demands the same from his employees. He recognizes the power of brand building - his product is called Blue Magic - and he protects that brand equity, chastising Cuba Gooding's character for selling a diluted product under the brand name. Aside from watching junkies lying strung out on tattered beds with infant children as a result of Lucas's product, and guys Lucas lit on fire, he was inspirational as a businessman.

Roberts' work bringing Lucas down was also great, albeit laced with luck. In the movie, at least, he pegs Lucas as a dude to be reckoned with when the latter wears an out-of-character fur coat and hat to a Frazier-Ali fight (this probably didn't happen in real life). My one criticism is that the movie spent too much time investigating Roberts' personal life. It was largely irrelevant to the overall plot, and my guess is Ridley Scott went that route to justify Crowe being a co-star.

Good flick, worth seeing. What other new movies have people seen lately?

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