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Published:November 25th, 2007 04:01 EST
American Gangster: American Classic

American Gangster: American Classic

By Garrett Godwin

In the world of Frank Lucas, you are either somebody, or you are nobody.

Together onscreen for the first time since Virtuosity twelve years ago, Oscar winners Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe are on opposite sides of the law again in American Gangster.

Directed by Ridley Scott, who also worked with Crowe in 2000`s GladiatorAmerican Ganster is based on the true story of Frank Lucas (Washington), who was born in Harlem and learned everything there is to know about the streets and more through his mentor, mobster Bumpy Johnson.

When Bumpy dies, Frank becomes his own person and is in charge of his own organization, becoming the reputed kingpin in the drug trade through the late 60s and into the early 1970s-- smuggling heroin into the United States from Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War.  However, Frank`s reign is about to come to an end as Detective Richie Roberts (Crowe) heads up a covert, anti-drug fighting unit to bring Lucas to justice.

American Gangster is similar to 1995`s Heat, starring another pair of Oscar winners, Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro, who are also on opposite sides of the law.  In both movies, neither actor ever has any scene withthe another until either the middle, or the climax, of the movie.  With Heat and American Gangster, you have two incredible and talented actors who are at the top of their game and still in the prime of their careers.

What makes American Gangster work is the ambiguity of the main characters who are redeemable and have humanity; and, they are heroes in their own way.

Despite his illegal activities, Frank Lucas is a "noble criminal" because he loves his family and looks out for them.  For instance, he takes his mother to church on Sundays.

Lucas is an educated, successful businessman.  He is a husband, brother and friend as well as a pillar of the community who believes in hard work and the importance of family.

Richie Roberts, (Crow) on the other hand, is going through a divorce and he doesn`t see his young son much because of "the job," and always has a wandering eye for the ladies.  However, he is a dedicated, honest cop who is determined to see justice done, and he believes in doing the right thing-- no matter what the cost, no matter what anybody says.

Worthy of being a contender for the Academy Awards with strong performances, American Gangster continues to shoot its way into theaters right now.