American Gangster

User Score
7.5

Generally favorable reviews- based on 345 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Negative: 26 out of 345

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User Reviews

  1. Hughie
    Nov 5, 2007
    5
    Nothing all that special. Great actors in an ok film.
  2. [Anonymous]
    Feb 29, 2008
    4
    Movie itself was good.. the story sucks. He should have been shot for getting his entire family killed or arrested, and being a snitch, Good acting, poor story.
  3. ClintT.
    Jan 20, 2008
    6
    This is a thoroughly overrated film certainly undeserving of the rave reviews it got. I wasn
  4. JosieQ.
    Nov 7, 2007
    6
    I thought the action was slow and lame, the focus seemed to be in all the bad places and some important details we're misplaced. Even thought, Denzel kept us entertained with his amazing acting.
  5. BrianR
    Nov 8, 2007
    5
    There was much to look at, but little to really appreciate. In terms of story, there is nothing new to this film in the least. There are visual and thematic reminders of many other, and many better, crime films. In the end, this film strangely glorifies a truly dangerous and despicable man -- someone who has contributed mightily to the detriment of black and inner city people in America. There was much to look at, but little to really appreciate. In terms of story, there is nothing new to this film in the least. There are visual and thematic reminders of many other, and many better, crime films. In the end, this film strangely glorifies a truly dangerous and despicable man -- someone who has contributed mightily to the detriment of black and inner city people in America. The film seems to be mostly indifferent to that fact. The acting is fine (Denzel is getting to mannered, though -- whats with the "My man" phrase in every performance now?) and the look is accomplished, but the movie is generally a bore. Expand
  6. RandallV.
    Feb 27, 2008
    6
    Great acting, Shakespearian plot, where all characters get their just desserts in the end, but the story moves along too inevitably and predictably for the viewer to feel it is true-to-life.
  7. JackB.
    Mar 24, 2008
    5
    This film is completely watchable, and not boring. But given that you had a formerly great director (Ridley Scott) working with a truly great actor (Denzel Washington) on a story with real potential for depth, it was amazingly flat. No real development of Denzel's character, despite some interesting possibilities (he'd just gotten back from Vietnam in 1968! And he came back to This film is completely watchable, and not boring. But given that you had a formerly great director (Ridley Scott) working with a truly great actor (Denzel Washington) on a story with real potential for depth, it was amazingly flat. No real development of Denzel's character, despite some interesting possibilities (he'd just gotten back from Vietnam in 1968! And he came back to Harlem in the middle of one of its most vibrant and, yes, messed up periods!) You never even get a feeling you're IN Harlem here. Really a surprising failure of a movie. Expand
  8. Ossobuco
    Mar 29, 2008
    4
    Denzel is a snore (though that might just be his signature method), Crowe is so-so, the movie is a chaotic mess and soooooo pointlessly long and I love the scene towards the end where this psycho who has destroyed more live than your average serial killer is portrayed as a deep down inside nice guy.
  9. BJones
    Nov 3, 2007
    6
    "Pretty disappointing. Had a great story, great actors, and a great director/producer - but somehow it didn't all add up. Overly long and lacking character development." What Andy said a few posts down could not be more true. If the movie were to be summed up in two sentences, those are them. I feel it could have been great if I cared about the characters.
  10. KathyT.
    Nov 7, 2007
    5
    Rating this movie as a 5 is being generous, and I concede that it only rates that score because of Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe. I, too, felt that Frank Lucas was portrayed as somewhat of a hero in this movie and that was terribly offensive to me. He was an illiterate, cold-blooded, murdering drug lord who used the coffins of our young American soldiers to smuggle his drugs into Rating this movie as a 5 is being generous, and I concede that it only rates that score because of Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe. I, too, felt that Frank Lucas was portrayed as somewhat of a hero in this movie and that was terribly offensive to me. He was an illiterate, cold-blooded, murdering drug lord who used the coffins of our young American soldiers to smuggle his drugs into this country. He killed a lot more people than we can count. Frankly, there had to be more interesting, worthy stories out there to tell. I am even more offended that this man, when interviewed, comes across as very proud and arrogant. After watching his interview on The History Channel, I regret having spent the money to support this movie. Expand
  11. ZachH
    Dec 9, 2007
    5
    Agree with Ben B above- this is really a very formulaic gangster movie with little originality other than the protagonist being black. The acting was good, but overall I was disappointed.
  12. GeneL
    Nov 12, 2007
    6
    Similar to Michael Mann's Heat, in that the two main actors, Crowe and Washington, do not share the screen until the tail end of the movie, but this film is not as good as Heat. Ridley Scott does a good job of developing the two primary characters, but I found myself not engrossed by their motivations. In the end it really is a run-of-the-mill cops and bad guys flick with some Similar to Michael Mann's Heat, in that the two main actors, Crowe and Washington, do not share the screen until the tail end of the movie, but this film is not as good as Heat. Ridley Scott does a good job of developing the two primary characters, but I found myself not engrossed by their motivations. In the end it really is a run-of-the-mill cops and bad guys flick with some corruption thrown in and cliches. For ex, the obligatory "wife" of the gangster who we don't really care for since her character was not developed. Moreover, we don't care about many of the supporting actors here because the story doesn't really flush them out. I honestly don't understand why the critics are crazy about this flick. It's okay, but really not an instant classic. Performances good. Story mediocre. Expand
  13. HalB.
    Nov 14, 2007
    6
    A disappointing film. Wants to be Godfather (or maybe Scarface?), but falls well short. The performances are solid, the direction is strong and there are some good scenes. But the story as a whole just doesn't rise above a good made-for-TV effort. There's one particularly senseless scene of violence that I guess is supposed to depict just how brutal Denzel's character is... A disappointing film. Wants to be Godfather (or maybe Scarface?), but falls well short. The performances are solid, the direction is strong and there are some good scenes. But the story as a whole just doesn't rise above a good made-for-TV effort. There's one particularly senseless scene of violence that I guess is supposed to depict just how brutal Denzel's character is... but it's pretty unbelievable when you think about it. And the ending, after all the horrible things that Denzel and his crime organization is responsible for, falls flat. Suddenly he and Crowe's character are good buddies? Please... Expand
  14. JanaW.
    Nov 15, 2007
    6
    At the beginning the movie is quite confusing. For a long time one cannot really see what the strand of the black gangster boss who sets up his business with drugs has to do with the strand of the detective and his strange friends. Only when the cop becomes the head of a special comission against drugs one starts to understand. Sometimes the movie is quite cruel but I really like the end At the beginning the movie is quite confusing. For a long time one cannot really see what the strand of the black gangster boss who sets up his business with drugs has to do with the strand of the detective and his strange friends. Only when the cop becomes the head of a special comission against drugs one starts to understand. Sometimes the movie is quite cruel but I really like the end with the two opposites of the church and the raid and the following trial. Expand
  15. Heather
    Nov 2, 2007
    5
    High expectations leave a lot of room for disappointment. The film didn't compel me and I wasn't emotionally touched by any of the characters. Just when I started to feel some interest, it fast-forwarded in time, leaving the most important details to be told in words, and not through story development. A real disappointment!
  16. BenB.
    Nov 30, 2007
    6
    I'm sorry to all those who liked this movie, but I was very disappointed. The brilliant advertising campaign for this movie forgot to include that this movie was only for those with time to waste. Russell Crowe's performance was very believable, with Denzel Washington's less impressive, but decent. The script here (Scarface with a conscience?) was pretty much like every I'm sorry to all those who liked this movie, but I was very disappointed. The brilliant advertising campaign for this movie forgot to include that this movie was only for those with time to waste. Russell Crowe's performance was very believable, with Denzel Washington's less impressive, but decent. The script here (Scarface with a conscience?) was pretty much like every gangster movie ever made but - guess what! - the main character is African American! That's a great reason to rehash every sad gangster cliche ever penned! The writers of this movie should be forced to make the script more intelligent and the character of Denzel Washington more believable. A disappointment. Expand
  17. SoWeightless
    Nov 4, 2007
    4
    To mention this film alongside an original crime masterpiece like Scarface or a modern epic like Heat is a travesty. Surely, the actual events the film is based on carried more insight, intrigue, intensity and human emotion than what is presented on screen. I love a lot of Ridley Scott's films, Bladerunner, White Squall, Aliens, you name it, but what made those films great and To mention this film alongside an original crime masterpiece like Scarface or a modern epic like Heat is a travesty. Surely, the actual events the film is based on carried more insight, intrigue, intensity and human emotion than what is presented on screen. I love a lot of Ridley Scott's films, Bladerunner, White Squall, Aliens, you name it, but what made those films great and entertaining was their fresh look and depth - depth for detail and fashion, but also character depth. Denzel Washington's character is given presidential treatment here, and the film makes the case for Frank Lucas as a modern day hero. Offensive to me as a black man, that a drug dealer who smuggled heroin in the coffins of U.S. soldiers is immortalized in such a positive light. But besides the ethical questions, the film is all style, boring structure and faux important. Gangster films can be great, but this is posturing. Admit it. Expand
  18. SusanS.
    Nov 5, 2007
    5
    Let me preface this by saying I saw this movie at a 10:15 showing, and I hadn't looked up the run time of the movie, so maybe I was just tired. But I definitely felt every single one of those 157 minutes. I was psyched going into this movie, but I left feeling tired and slightly irritated. What was the movie about? I don't know, and I don't think Ridley Scott knew either. Let me preface this by saying I saw this movie at a 10:15 showing, and I hadn't looked up the run time of the movie, so maybe I was just tired. But I definitely felt every single one of those 157 minutes. I was psyched going into this movie, but I left feeling tired and slightly irritated. What was the movie about? I don't know, and I don't think Ridley Scott knew either. It's very disjointed and, to me, slightly racist. There didn't seem to be an argument being made, nor was there any definitive through-line. I wanted to care more about Washington's character, but the film wouldn't let me, and I wanted to be more angry at Crowe's character, but he kept being vindicated like a saint. The only message I got in the end was that the good white cop will always win. And that irritated me severely. In conclusion, it was too many characters, not enough plot development, and no message, not even a morally ambiguous one. I realize that it's based on real life, but that's no excuse for shoddy storytelling. Expand
  19. RichardW.
    Nov 5, 2007
    4
    Long, tedious portrayal of a drug lord as relatively heroic was arduous as opposed to epic.
  20. DWilly
    Nov 8, 2007
    4
    After the huge star salaries for blah their performances and the huge Zallian payday for his blah script, I guess there wasn't any money left to buy the real music playing in Harlem in the early 70s. But since this was actually shot in nondescript blah Canada that's really fitting. Without a single surprising, moving or gratifying moment.
  21. TonyB.
    Dec 17, 2007
    5
    This is one of the more overrated films of the year. Oh, it has its good points; Washington and Crowe are superb; the supporting cast is fine and the cinematography and production design are firstrate. However, its much too long and really hasn't much to say that hasn't been said before, and said much better. Anyone remember "The Departed?"
  22. Andy
    Oct 31, 2007
    6
    Pretty disappointing. Had a great story, great actors, and a great director/producer - but somehow it didn't all add up. Overly long and lacking character development.
  23. BrittH.
    Nov 17, 2007
    5
    It opts for the task of illustrating rather than dramatising the story; thus it delivers very little in the way of tension, but a lot in the way of handsome period detail, where even the people are lovingly-placed props.
  24. JoshB.
    Dec 26, 2007
    4
    Filled with cliches -- we've seen this story many times before. The movie is way too long, and yet the only thing that's different comes at the end (I won't ruin it), and barely any time is spent on it.
  25. micheld.
    Dec 29, 2007
    6
    Could have been a great movie if not for the content
  26. Sep 20, 2013
    6
    This movie really gets into every corner about the story it is telling. This is a very well executed film, with strong lead performances and great directing style. This is definitely a very good crime film.
Metascore
76

Generally favorable reviews - based on 38 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 35 out of 38
  2. Negative: 0 out of 38
  1. 88
    Call it the black "Scarface" or "the Harlem Godfather" or just one hell of an exciting movie.
  2. It's workmanlike and engrossing, but what sticks in the mind are Frank and Richie, not what anybody does.
  3. Reviewed by: Todd McCarthy
    80
    Absorbing, exciting at times and undeniably entertaining, and is poised to be a major commercial hit. But great it's not.