Maybe itâ€™s a personality flaw, but one of my favorite movie genres has always been the gangster flick. The first two Godfather films are in my all-time top five. Goodfellas is in my top 20. I really liked Casino, although it was way too long and seemed to lack direction at times. Iâ€™ve always enjoyed New Jack City, maybe more because it reminds me of days of skipping school, playing Madden Football, eating pizza and being a delinquent (hey, I got my diploma, and graduated from college, so I feel no guilt). Donâ€™t even get me started on Scarface. I canâ€™t think of a single real guy that has not enjoyed that one countless times. Heck, it was even fun to watch the Entourage guys pretend to make Medellian.
Thereâ€™s just something fun about watching the underworld operate. Deep down I think we all wish we could be above the law and answer to no one. Usually the bad guys screw up at the end and either get shot or go to jail, but we hope they wonâ€™t.
So this week I went to see the movie Iâ€™ve been looking forward to seeing for months: American Gangster.
I give it an enthusiastic thumbs up, even though it does have some flaws.
For me, the biggest flaw is the quotability of the flick. Every good gangster flick, the iconic ones, has lines that you can repeat a million times over with your friends while watching sports or making fun of someone. â€œSay â€˜ello to the bad guyâ€ â€œIâ€™ll bury those cockroachesâ€ â€œIâ€™ll make him an offer he canâ€™t refuseâ€ â€œGo home and get your shinebox.â€
I could go on and on and on.
With AG, I canâ€™t really remember one line that stood out above the rest. Maybe after Frank Lucas gunned down a rival in the streets and then sat back down and said â€œwhat was I sayingâ€ as he folded his napkin, but other than that no particular lines stuck with me.
Maybe Iâ€™m being a big nit-picky, but thatâ€™s the difference between being remembered as a good movie and an iconic one. How much can you quote endlessly with your friends?
Other than that, though, I really dug it. You canâ€™t really go wrong with Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe. Theyâ€™re two of the great actors of our time and they own their roles. Itâ€™s weird because theyâ€™re on opposite ends of the spectrum, and you canâ€™t help rooting for both of them to succeed.
Washingtonâ€™s Lucas is a self-made success, who takes all heâ€™s learned from his predecessor and betters it. He becomes the top gangster in the country, and does so under the radar. Itâ€™s really quite impressive, until his wife â€“ itâ€™s always the love interest, isnâ€™t it â€“ coerces him into making an uncharacteristic mistake that leads to his ultimate demise.
As Richie, Crowe is a untouchable cop that refuses to be corrupted, which of course means that none of the other cops around, who are all crooked, will work him. Early on he refuses to pocket just short of $1 million that he finds on the job, and then is not trusted by the force. While he is a perfect cop, he is also a bad husband, and his family life falls apart as his job begins to go north. Heâ€™s layered, and interesting. He knows heâ€™s flawed, and hates that he canâ€™t take the simple way out, but he just canâ€™t.
The two megastars are not on camera with one another through the first two hours of the movie. They exist in the same world, but on opposite sides of it. One is living large, the other is trying to untangle the web. Much like Heat, you wait and wait for them to be in the same scene.
The tandem have one great scene together, one that totally explains who their characters are. After that they went for a feel-good ending, which is a bit confusing, but seeing itâ€™s based on a true story, itâ€™s acceptable.
So in the end, Iâ€™ll give it a thumbs up, because I did have a lot of fun with American Gangster. I just donâ€™t think Iâ€™ll be quoting it endlessly over the years.
The views and opinions in the Enterprise blogs are those of the author and are not neccessarily shared by Falmouth Publishing.