"American Gangster" fancies itself as a 2007 versison of "Heat." In that film where a determined federal agent (Al Pacino) tracks a master thief (Robert DeNiro), director Ridley Scott uses the same technique in this film. While Pacino had Bubba Gump (Mykelti Williamson), Richie Roberts has the RZA. DeNiro had Val Kilmer and Tom Sizemore, Denzel Washington has Chiwetel Ejiofor, Common and T.I. Even Cuba Gooding, Jr. is solid in a few scenes as Lucas' rival,
. What separates the two films is the script for "AG" spends far too much time setting up the story rather than just letting it evolve. The film stretches almost to the point of bursting before Scott hurriedly ends the film.
Washington gives a solid performance that clearly would have been more appreciated earlier in his career. It almost seems that his screen persona and ultimate likeability sometimes works against him. He plays Frank Lucas almost down the middle not committing to being neither too good or bad, which makes it hard for his character to have a strong identity. Aside from some factual inaccuracies, "American Gangster" is a by-the-book crime movie where good triumphs over evil. While the film's greatest asset is its two stars, it's slow pacing and 157 minute running time makes for a over ambitious crime-story. "American Gangster" has too much setup and not enough of Washington and Crowe and those factors together make this wannabe "Heat" just lukewarm.
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