I’m a bit behind with Ridley Scott’s work (mostly cos none of it has interested me.) However, since all the buzz about Prometheus I’ve been working my way through his back catalogue and was impressed with both Kingdom of Heaven and Robin Hood - admittedly, my expectations for both were low.
American Gangster is another Ridley epic (based on a true story this time) which tellsthe tale of a cop who believes he is uncorruptable played by Russell Crowe pitched again Denzel Washington’s New York drug baron. I watched the extended version and it was far too long, certainly overblown and badly paced. My fault for watching the extended version I guess!
As with all scripts written by Steven Zallian it’s a character piece and suffers from being bogged down in detail. He did a great job with The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and American Gangster has that same approach: 2 main protagonists interracting with a huge ensemble cast. Except with less plot and a nagging feeling quite a bit more should have been snipped out. The extended version is a fur coat of a film.
American Gangster opens with it’s best scene. Without any preample, Denzel Washington dowses some guy in gasoline, sets him on fire, cooks him a little, then shoots him in the head a few times. When a film starts like that you’ve set the tension from the off and there isn’t a need to show how violent the world is - and the film suffers for it. If anything, both characters lives are fantastical and yet mundane. I’m sure that’s the point that the richer you get the more trapped you become. Still snoozeville to watch though.
One of the film’s greatest strengths is its commentary on how the US military shipped heroin into the US during the Vietnam war. I’d link to some articles however when you type that into google you take a step into the world of the tinfoil hat brigade so beware.