American Gangster

[Amazon Link] [3.5
stars] [IMDb Link]

As I type, this movie is number 185 on IMDB's top 250 movies of all time. Please. But it's pretty good.

It's the story of the rise and fall of Frank Lucas, played by Denzel Washington. At the start of the movie, Frank is the flunky of Harlem crimelord Bumpy Johnson, a small role played by Clarence Williams III (who will always be Linc Hayes from The Mod Squad to me—yes, kids, that's how old I am).

Frank's climb to the top goes largely unnoticed by the police, since black criminals are assumed to be owned by white higher-ups. Frank is a criminal entrepreneur, often making analogies to legitimate business practices. That doesn't stop him from killing people, though, both directly and by satisfying Harlem's huge hunger for heroin.

Opposing him is Detective Richie Roberts, who is, according to this film, one of only a handful of honest cops in the New York City metropolitan area. He's played by Maximus himself, Russell Crowe. Richie's a New Jersey schlub, dedicated to shutting down the unusually pure junk Frank is importing from Thailand using his US military contacts.

It's very watchable, with two huge acting talents at the top of their game, and a great director, Ridley Scott.

Last Modified 2012-10-13 6:18 AM EDT