American Gangster

Rated 3.0

Director Ridley Scott and writer Steven Zaillian (from the magazine article by Mark Jacobson) recount the 1970s heyday of Harlem drug kingpin Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington), contrasting his flamboyant life with the federal agent (Russell Crowe) working to bring him down. The movie concentrates on all the familiar elements of the urban crime melodrama, and there are plenty of pleasures (starting with the cast: the two stars, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Josh Brolin, Ted Levine, Cuba Gooding Jr., Idris Elba, Ruby Dee, Armand Assante, Clarence Williams III, Kevin Corrigan, etc.). But Scott takes too long to get a grip on the story, and he and Zaillian leave us with a nagging sense that the most interesting parts of it aren’t on the screen; they promise an epic experience that their movie doesn’t quite deliver.