American Gangster


American Gangster

Critics Consensus

American Gangster is a gritty and entertaining throwback to classic gangster films, with its lead performers firing on all cylinders.



Total Count: 213


Audience Score

User Ratings: 963,006
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Movie Info

Nobody used to notice Frank Lucas, the quiet driver to one of the inner city's leading black crime bosses. But when his boss suddenly dies, Frank exploits the opening in the power structure to build his own empire and create his own version of the American Dream. Through ingenuity and a strict business ethic, he comes to rule the inner-city drug trade, flooding the streets with a purer product at a better price. Lucas outplays all of the leading crime syndicates and becomes not only one of the city's mainline corrupters, but part of its circle of legit civic superstars. Richie Roberts is an outcast cop close enough to the streets to feel a shift of control in the drug underworld. Roberts believes someone is climbing the rungs above the known Mafia families and starts to suspect that a black power player has come from nowhere to dominate the scene. Both Lucas and Roberts share a rigorous ethical code that sets them apart from their own colleagues, making them lone figures on opposite sides of the law. The destinies of these two men will become intertwined as they approach a confrontation where only one of them can come out on top.

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Denzel Washington
as Frank Lucas
Russell Crowe
as Detective Richie Roberts
Josh Brolin
as Detective Trupo
Chiwetel Ejiofor
as Huey Lucas
Ruby Dee
as Mama Lucas
Ted Levine
as Lou Toback
Clarence Williams III
as Ellsworth "Bumpy" Johnson
John Hawkes
as Freddie Spearman
Yul Vázquez
as Alfonse Abruzzo
Malcolm Goodwin
as Jimmy Zee
Carla Gugino
as Laurie Roberts
John Ortiz
as Javier J. Rivera
as Stevie Lucas
Cuba Gooding Jr.
as Nicky Barnes
Armand Assante
as Dominic Cattano
Kathleen Garrett
as Mrs. Dominic Cattano
Joe Morton
as Charlie Williams
Ritchie Coster
as Joey Sadano
as Turner Lucas
Ric Young
as Chinese General
KaDee Strickland
as Richie's Attorney
Norman Reedus
as Detective in Morgue
J. Kyle Manzay
as Dexter Lucas
Warner Miller
as Melvin Lucas
Albert Jones
as Terrence Lucas
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Critic Reviews for American Gangster

All Critics (213) | Top Critics (54)

  • Ridley Scott's gangster flick aims high and mostly measures up.

    Oct 18, 2008 | Full Review…

    Bob Mondello
    Top Critic
  • Scott's not interested in fireworks but small implosions of the soul and ego.

    Feb 3, 2008 | Rating: B | Full Review…
  • One of the most intelligent gangster movies in years.

    Jan 4, 2008 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
  • Here's a startlingly original true-life story told in an oddly unoriginal way. And that attempt at instant classic status in the title doesn't quite convince. It's got no more dark grandeur than American Idol.

    Nov 16, 2007 | Rating: 2/5 | Full Review…
  • Sharp, observant and true to the period, the film-making is, on the whole, less determined to show its virtuosity than in Scott's other work.

    Nov 15, 2007 | Rating: 4/5
  • A cocksure upstart that has swaggered onto the scene, confident that it can take its place at the table with the big boys.

    Nov 15, 2007 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

    Wendy Ide

    Times (UK)
    Top Critic

Audience Reviews for American Gangster

  • Feb 25, 2016
    Even based on true events most films like this like to add more action in places but Ridley Scott focuses less on the action side on more on the story telling side, And it is told very well, With a very strong cast lead by Denzel Washington and Russel Crowe who were both fantastic, It doesn't drag as much as you think given the running time but maybe sparkles of action wouldn't of gone a miss, Having said that the ending was good and the whole tone of the film was great too, It's far from you average American drug gang films but it's up there with the best.
    Jamie C Super Reviewer
  • Aug 20, 2013
    If it's a true story chances are a film studio will adapted it to the big screen regardless of the material. Some of these true stories have gone to become classic films while other serving as an insult. American Gangster is in the middle ground taking an interesting story and downplaying it to fiction without anything separating it from being another fictional crime film. American Gangster is set in 1970s America, a detective works to bring down the drug empire of Frank Lucas, a heroin kingpin from Manhattan, who is smuggling the drug into the country from the Far East. The plot is fabricated so do not go into this expecting an accurate presentation of the actual events. The fictionalized version of the story is prone to questionable decisions. For example, in the film officer Richie Roberts is in a custody battle with his recently divorced wife. Now the real life Richie Roberts never had any kids and in the film Robert being a father serves the plot no purpose being toss aside in favor of taking down Lucas empire for a large portion of the film. Choices like these distract from the flow of the film padding out a story that doesn't need filler. Because of this many important characters it introduces into the fold of either sides never come into fruition. Moving the plot forward, but serving no great purpose in the whole picture. It's straight forward linear structure sadly does it no favor playing out exactly playing out like a story like this would. Showing the rise of the criminal empire, an honest cop operation on taking a powerful criminal down, honest cop discover corruption in the system, the criminal beginning to make mistake, honest cop getting a big break, and sadly you will know how it'll play out. For its very noticeable faults American Gangster script does get things right. It's narrative switches between its two main character providing distinct characteristic. Both see themselves as examples that should be followed because they follow a strict life code built on core American values like integrity and hard work. Sharing us their conflicts, their low points, and their triumphs. Providing two vastly different view on the American dream and struggle to maintain it together. Contrasting each other pathos and ethos for what they strive for. Both the main characters get considerable amount of development thanks to it slow pace. Being fully realize serving as excellent character piece in the middle of its distorted plot elements. Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe are without a doubt the glue that hold this picture together. Denzel Washington plays his character with sense of tenderness and cruelness. Coming off as a man who you respect and fear at the time. Russell Crowe is equally just as excellent. Crowe is messy, disorganised, and ruggedness in playing a cop losing everything he did. Ridley Scott capture the gritty characteristic of New York. Minor light and bright images littered throughout the film, but there is a certain sense of subdued grey that is carried for the majority of it. It definitely felt authentic to the time period, and the details in keeping this way are numerous. A seventies feel is nicely achieved through the use of down-tinted color and many, but not overstated, period outfits and hairdos. It's also an interesting point brought out in Scott's occasionally documentary-style. American Gangster fictionalizes true events for a decent fictional crime film saved by its two more than compelling leads. The plot could have risen to become an epic crime story, but unnecessary padding and weak story elements hold it back from reaching its director ambition.
    Caesar M Super Reviewer
  • Dec 07, 2012
    Ridley Scott develops a masterpiece to be enshrined historically as a magnificent crime/drama classic. American Gangster provides what is to be expected of the obvious title: violence, drugs, and a daring story. The film is also given an extra push by its groundbreaking cast, especially Washington & Crowe. 4/5
    Eugene B Super Reviewer
  • Sep 18, 2012
    Another great film starring Denzel. It has a good amount of violence (if that kind of thing matters to you), and a great story line. If you like movies such as Scarface and The Godfather, then this is a good movie to watch within that genre.
    Eric A Super Reviewer

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