Saturday, November 3, 2007


Biography, crime drama

Ellsworth "Bumpy" Johnson (1906–1968) was an American gangster from Charleston, S.C. who moved to Harlem in New York city with his parents as a small boy. He was given the nickname "Bumpy" because of a large bump on the back of his head. He was hired by the Genovese crime family to protect Mafia operations in black neighbourhoods against local Harlem criminals. Johnson was arrested more than forty times and would eventually serve three prison terms for narcotics-related charges. He served as mentor to future drug kingpin Frank Lucus.

Frank Lucas (born 1930 in North Carolina), as the oldest boy in the family he had to put food on the table. He began stealing food and later, mugging drunks. He eventually had to leave home in his teens, after taking $400 from his boss and setting the man's place on fire. Lucas headed for Harlem where he continued his life of petty crime. He took a step up when he caught the attention of mobster "Bumpy" Johnson and became his driver.

Clarence Williams: “Bumpy” Johnson, crime boss of Harlem
Denzel Washington: his associate Frank Lucas
Russell Crowe: New Jersey drug cop Detective Richie Roberts
John Ortiz: his partner Javy Rivera
Josh Brolin: Detective Trupo, chief of the NYPD narcotics squad
Lymari Nadal: Miss Puerto Rico 1970
Chiwetel Ejiofor: Frank’s brother Huey
Ruby Dee: Frank and Huey’s mother

At 2 hours and 37 minutes, it is way too long. I suspect the explanation is a pedestrian as the producers trying to get in the same league in terms of running time as the best of the gendre: “Scarface”, 2 hrs 50 min., “The Godfather”, 2 hrs. 55 min.
They should not have bothered because it simply prolongs a well made, good story past the point where sustained interest remains paramount. As with most movies of this type, the last 20 – 30 minutes are “must see” so you are almost compelled to hang in to the bitter end whether you want to or not. Chop out half an hour (an easy thing to do, starting with the extended court proceedings of Richie’s divorce case) and it gets one more star!

The acting thoughout is top notch with both Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe at the top of their game. For that reason alone it is worth seeing.

for violence, pervasive drug content and language, nudity and sexuality.

 Frank tells the telephone operator the international country code for Bangkok is 376; in fact it is 66.
 Richie calls in a code 10-13 on the police radio. That is a request for weather and road conditions. Given the circumstances a 10-71 (shooting has taken place) would have been more appropriate.
 When they visit Frank’s brother at his service station, the posted cost of gas is 30 cents a gallon. That was the price back in 1964 and had reached 36 cents a gallon when the story takes place.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

American Gangster reminds me yet again what a versatile actor Russell Crowe is… plus Ridley Scott deftly leads us into loving the bad guy and disliking the good guy... very clever.