Wed. Jan 26th, 2022

In the past few weeks, “30 Days of Night” and “Saw IV” took top earnings in the box office. These movies generated large amounts of cash because they were horror movies released in October (the month of Halloween). Halloween is over and no longer is the industry focused on horror movies. The focus of all movie patrons has shifted to one film. The real-life epic “American Gangster.” This film-directed by Ridley Scott (director of “Alien”, “Gladiator”, and “Black Hawk Down”)-concerns the rise and fall of Frank Lucas. The acting in this film is top-notch and should lead many associated with “American Gangster” to Oscar gold. Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington) comes from a poor family in Greensboro, N.C. He works in Harlem for a gangster named Bumpy, who teaches him how to run the “business.” When Bumpy dies, it becomes hard for Lucas to make money. Lucas figures out a way where he could make exponential amounts of money and he uses it to become the most powerful man in Harlem. During this time, Lucas has to worry about an immense number of crooked cops in New York and one group of clean cops in New Jersey. This group of clean cops is headed by Richie Roberts (Russell Crowe). This movie shows how all three of these groups are connected when Lucas ran the heroine market in Harlem.

Washington becomes Frank Lucas. Washington’s interpretation of the actions, emotions and behavior of this Harlem drug lord makes the audience believe that Washington runs New York. This easily tops his performance as Alonso in “Training Day,” which won him the Academy Award for Best Actor. Washington makes the audience sympathize with him when something happens to his family. At points in the movie, Washington surprises the audience with his sudden violent outbursts to prove his superiority in the heroin market. Washington’s portrayal of Frank Lucas is comparable to Al Pacino’s depiction of Scarface. Both of these characters are charismatic villains. Both Lucas and Scarface started with nothing and then became the head of their respective drug markets. While in control of the market, both conduct business in a manner that commands respect from rival groups along with their own chain of command. These two characters are similar enough, that it is not a stretch to believe that Lucas will have the same impact Scarface did. Lucas will become intertwined with the fabric of pop-culture for many years to come. Washington is now the front runner for the Oscar and Crowe should follow suit for best supporting actor.

Crowe became a well-known actor because of violent roles. He got his big break playing a skinhead in “Romper Stomper” constantly fighting Vietnamese. Ridley Scott used Crowe in “Gladiator” to kill everything that came near him inside the arena. In “L.A. Confidential,” Crowe played a cop who could not control his violent temper. South Park even pokes fun at Crowe by giving him his own TV show where he fights around the world. When Crowe plays a cop in a Ridley Scott film, it seems pretty certain that he is going to kick some butt. That is why it was a complete surprise to see Crowe play the non-violent cop. Not only was Crowe’s character not violent, but he was trying to put a stop to corruption in the New York/New Jersey police departments. Never once in the movie does the audience question Crowe in the role of Ritchie Roberts because he nails it. Crowe does a magnificent job and it is no wonder why Scott keeps using him in his movies.

“American Gangster” gives the country something that it has so desperately needed: a beautifully acted and brilliantly directed movie about a crime syndicate. The fact that the real Frank Lucas and Ritchie Roberts both helped out with the production of the movie comes across in the realistic nature of the performances by Washington and Crowe. If for no other reason you must see this movie because it will win three Oscars: Russell Crowe for Best Supporting Actor, Denzel Washington for Best Actor and “American Gangster” for Best Film.

Tom Pittman is a fourth-year student majoring in psychology with a minor in mathematics. He can be reached at

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