American Gangster Reviews
American Gangster is meticulous and detailed, a drug-world epic that holds you from moment to moment, immersing you in the intricate and sleazy logistics of crime.
Here's a startlingly original true-life story told in an oddly unoriginal way. And that attempt at instant classic status in the title doesn't quite convince. It's got no more dark grandeur than American Idol.
The better it gets -- and the drama grows in power over its quasi-epic course of 157 minutes -- the more it brings to mind the truly great gangster films of American movie history.
Ridley Scott packs the film with period detail and vivid, violent energy reminiscent of high-grade Scorsese, then mixes in a Lumet-like, keenly observed outrage at systemic corruption.
Their ambition is out there. But for all the sprawl, American Gangster feels secondhand. It's like Scarface drained of blood, at arm's length from the culture that spawned it.
A strikingly photogenic but lethargic cops and crimelords yarn, it gives us a number of formidable talents laboring on a story that never develops the headlong momentum it needs. It's a brooding, serious character study impersonating a crime thriller.
Every bit as generic as its title, American Gangster is a Frankenstein creature of a film, put together from the parts of other famous gangster flicks yet lacking in both the fury and wild-eyed vision the best of the genre have to offer.