American Gangster DVD Review
by Kam Williams
Harlem Heroin Kingpin Bio-Pic Starring Denzel Due on DVD
At the height of his reign as New York's heroin kingpin, Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington) was raking in over a million dollars a day. This was no mean feat for a former sharecropper who had arrived from rural North Carolina penniless and with no formal education.
He built his drug empire as a family-run business, restricting membership in the gang to relatives and friends from his hometown. However, what really made his operation so successful was the fact that he figured out a way to cut out the middleman.
With the help of soldiers stationed overseas, he smuggled uncut drugs into the country in the caskets of deceased Vietnam vets. Before he and his confederates were finally caught and carted off to prison, Lucas would amass a personal fortune in the hundreds of millions.
While some might be tempted to admire Frank, never forget that this was a cold-blooded killer who never gave a second thought about exploiting the human condition or assassinating any cop or competitor who stood in his way.
Yet, since nothing is more meta-typically American than a graphic gangster saga, it comes as no surprise that the story would find its way to the big screen.
Co-starring Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe, this elaborate epoch of Shakespearean proportions explores an array of universal themes, ranging from loyalty and betrayal, to love and hate, to ambition and corruption, to sin and redemption. Regrettably, despite these classical pretensions and a stellar cast, the picture still somehow adds up to less than the sum of its parts.
For the film feels like an R-rated rap video, laced with graphic displays of gratuitous violence and topless women. Overall, an irresistibly seductive celebration of a monster likely to deliver the wrong message to many an impressionable young mind.
Fair (1.5 stars)
Rated R for female frontal nudity, sexuality, profanity, ethnic slurs, gratuitous violence and pervasive drug content
Running time: 158 minutes
Studio: Universal Studios Home Entertainment
2-Disc DVD Extras: 18 minutes of never-before-seen footage, an alternate ending, deleted scenes, alternate opening, three "Behind-the-Scenes" segments, "The Making of" and five other featurettes.
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