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American Gangster

Are we not tired of titles that begin with "American-this" and "American-that"?

We had American Pie, American Beauty, American History X...they've probably come up with all the possible titles. So how does this film differ from the rest?

First things first: it's directed by Ridley Scott. That's Sir Ridley Scott to you. That should be enough for those film buffs out there.

Second, it has Russell Crowe in it. Any movie with Russell Crowe in it is definitely worth watching. Not because it's Russell Crowe, but because Mr. Crowe is a bit finicky about the scripts he accepts. He only accepts the good roles, and so if he's in it, there's a huge chance that the movie doesn't suck.

Third, Denzel is in it. I don't even have to say his last name. Just "Denzel". Now that's two Oscar winners in front of the camera, and a three-time Oscar nominee at the helm.

Now speaking of Oscars, Ridley Scott has yet to win one, like his brother Tony, but undoubtedly the brothers are one of the best directors on the planet. They don't do movies together like the Wachowskis or the Coens, which is actually a good thing, because you get two distinct yet similar styles of filmmaking.

Sir Ridley is an excellent storyteller, and he can make a complicated gangster narrative as simple as a bedtime story told by your grandfather. His shots are well-framed, the actions well-executed and delivered perfectly, and the cinematography is just beautiful. The photography actually tries to mimic the look of the old seventies films, and coupled with great costumes and brilliant production design, this film just takes you right back.

However, a word of caution: do not watch this film if you want to see an acting showdown between two Hollywood giants. Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe share screen time only toward the end of the movie (the last twenty minutes of an almost three-hour picture). Also, the real-life characters portrayed in the movie have complained of gross inaccuracies in the film, calling it one percent reality and ninety-nine percent Hollywood. But once you get past that, it's a cinematic work of art.

Rating: Five stars.

Click on this link to read the New York magazine article which was the basis for this film: http://nymag.com/nymag/features/3649/


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