AMERICAN GANGSTER

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Overall Impression — A little too long, but a classic two-hander with Mssrs Washington and Crowe commanding the screen.

 THE FOUR QUESTIONS

Who’s the main character? — In spite of the dominance of  Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington) Russel Crowe’s Richie Roberts is the main character.

What’s he trying to accomplish? — He’s trying to stop the flow of the newest, most potent heroin on the streets of Harlem.

Who’s trying to stop him? — Dirty cops and Frank Lucas.

What happens if he fails? — People will continue to die from this potent heroin, as well as from the organized crime syndicate behind it. 

 THE FOUR ARCHETYPES

Orphan — Richie is separated from his wife who is in the process of taking his young son away from him.  He’s also a pariah in the police department for being one of what seems to be a very few uncorrupt cops.

Wanderer — Richie puts together a team of cops to track down where the new heroin is coming from.

Warrior — Richie and his team eventually discover that Frank Lucas is behind it, and the closer he gets the more dangerous it becomes for him, both from inside the force and from the streets.

Martyr — Richie refuses to take a lot of dirty money…again!   He also gives up his son to his wife, recognizing that his lifestyle would not give his son the homelife the son needs. 

AND, IN THE END…

Richie has a clearly defined code of ethics which plays perfectly off of Frank Lucas’s clearly defined code of ethics.  In this way, the film is not dissimilar to HEAT, with a driven cop and a ruthless yet ‘principled’ (and I use that term loosely) gangster going head to head with each other.  A very solid script and a good piece of storytelling.

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