American Gangster | Chicago Reader

American Gangster

Ridley Scott serves up Brian De Palma's Scarface cocktail—historical sweep for the middlebrow, bloody vengeance for the lowbrow—in this crime epic (2007) about the rise and fall of Harlem heroin kingpin Frank Lucas. Set in the Vietnam era, it cuts relentlessly back and forth between Lucas (Denzel Washington) as he builds his empire and federal investigator Richie Roberts (Russell Crowe) as he zeroes in on the dealer, hindered at every turn by the wholesale corruption of the NYC police force. With one of these two alpha males anchoring nearly every scene, Scott really can't go wrong, but the lead characters are pretty thin, a fact highlighted by generic subplots: Lucas wants to impress his poor southern mama, Roberts needs to spend more time with his kid. Great cast, though: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Josh Brolin, Roger Guenveur Smith, Armand Assante, John Hawkes, Idris Elba, Ruby Dee, Common, and Cuba Gooding Jr. R, 157 min.



  • Ridley Scott


  • Denzel Washington
  • Russell Crowe
  • Dania Ramirez
  • Josh Brolin
  • Carla Gugino
  • John Hawkes
  • Chiwetel Ejiofor
  • Common
  • Clifford Harris
  • Robert 'RZA' Diggs


  • Steven Zaillian


  • Brian Grazer
  • Ron Howard

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