Thursday, November 01, 2007

A New Face of An American Gangster

The Godfather, Scarface, King of New York, New Jack City....mafia movies fans make room for a new addition to your collection...American Gangster. Denzel Washington's portrayal of 70's Harlem gangster, Frank Lucas, is so cold even polar bears reach for their finest chinchilla. Trust me, this performance makes Training Day look like nothing but a rehearsal.

Smoother than gourmet peanut butter, Denzel as Frank Lucas is undoubtedly one of the best cinematic performances of his career. Of course when I learned Lucas was a homeboy from Greensboro, NC, I have to admit I was even more drawn to this role. But then I asked myself, "What exactly are you drawn to?" Lucas was a cold hearted killer, a menace to society, a low down drug dealer, right? So why was I hoping he would escape police, relocate and pursue some legal means of doing business? Maybe because I understood his motivation: be his own boss, have a greater stake in his destiny, and make a way for his family to live comfortably for generations. Ain't that the great American dream? The founding fathers of America's wealthiest families had the same idea. But for a black man to have that kind of mentality pre-Civil Rights Movement and to not only act on it, but to excel pass the competition earned Frank Lucas much respect on the streets and even more enemies.

New York City cop Richie Roberts (Russel Crowe) is the enemy. But is he really? Though he wants to arrest Lucas, it's not his raison d'etre (that's "reason for being" for the foreign language challenged) . Roberts has bigger fish to fry. He's just as motivated as Lucas and beneath the surface these two distinctive men have more in common than what meets the eye. The entire film is an exercise of compare and contrast of their lives, personalities, and personal contradictions.

And for the record, this blogger/writer does not condone Lucas' choice of profession nor its consequences. However, I do respect his tenacity, intelligence, and perseverance to beat the odds against him. Separating the man from his deeds is not easy, nor should it be.

At the recent press conference in NY the producers, director, and members of the cast discuss the film and what it took to bring a new perspective, a new face to the America's definition of gangster.

The Producers: Brian Grazer & Steve Zaillian

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Director and Producer: Ridley Scott

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Denzel Washington & Russel Crowe

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Ruby Dee

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Visit American Gangster's website by clicking HERE

1 comment:

West said...

I thought American Gangster was ok. Denzel's performance definitely made it work. The film made history as the biggest crime drama opening ever. But the only sad thing is that there weren't any black folks involved behind the scenes. (Writer, Director, Producer)

With the Godfather they went out of their way to find an italian director. Coppola was a nobody before that film. They choose him because they wanted it to be authentic. (Can you imagine Goodfellas without Scorcese??) But with a "black" film they don't feel the need to do that.

I usually am a big Ridley Scott fan. But I don't he brought anything special to this film.