American Gangster on DVD

American Gangster on DVD.  This real-life story depicts the parallel lives of Frank Lucas and Richie Roberts in the early 1970s.  Lucas is the epitome of an American businessman.  He patiently studied for years under his boss and mentor.  He had the same information as others, yet he alone saw a tremendous opportunity where others didn’t.  He balanced taking enormous risks with solid research and calculations.  He sold a higher-quality product at a cheaper price, established a widely-known brand name and brutally drove out his competitors.  He brought his entire family into the business to share in his success.  He was at the top until Roberts arrested him, because Lucas’ business was selling heroin.  Roberts was an honest cop, when many weren’t so honest, taking law school classes at night.  He also made the most of his opportunity; a chance to lead a specialized group dedicated to hunting down the largest suppliers of drugs in the New York City area.  Originally targeting the Italian mobsters, Roberts only altered the direction of his investigation after a totally out-of-character bit of hubris by Lucas.

Denzel Washington gives a fantastic performance as Lucas and Russell Crowe is almost as good as Roberts.  Director Ridley Scott captures the essence of the time and place quite well and although the film is a bit long, every scene adds to the development of the two main characters, whether it’s Lucas in Southeast Asia establishing his supply lines or Roberts on a stakeout early in his career.  Despite knowing how it all ends, the performances by the two leads give the film a sense of energy that is maintained throughout.

The bonus features include alternate opening and ending scenes, in-depth looks at the costumes, the music, the locations and how certain scenes were created.  Lasting almost two hours themselves, these features are well-made and informative, though not unique in their content or scope.  Those interested in how movie deals are like shifting sands over time should look at IMDB’s trivia page for the film and those concerned about the difficulties of shooting a period piece like this one in an ever-changing urban environment should look at IMDB’s long list of goofs for the film.

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