Friday, November 09, 2007

10 Random Thoughts on "American Gangster"

1. 2007 is officially the year of the Brolin. With this film, the upcoming "No Country For Old Men" and "In the Valley of Elah", he's come into his own as a vivid presence.
2. I like Denzel Washington alot, and he does exude confidence as the film's heavy, but its a rather ordinary performance because he does this so well. He does bad things every few scenes to re-iterate he's the 'bad guy' which feels like an excuse for true character development.
3. On the other hand, Crowe is damn good in this, revealing a little bit of a beer gut and acting with modulation as the seedy 70's New Jersey/New York vibes roll by. The scene in the courtroom challenging his wife's custody of their son is some of his best acting yet.
4. This is Ridley Scott's best film in years; and that coming from a non-Ridley fan.
5. The shoot-out scene towards the end of the film got my pulse beating, even if it's a little too "hand-heldy" for my personal taste. Whatever happened to letting the action play itself out in creative staging rather than quick cutting and dizzy camera spins?
6. Chiwetel Ejiofor is left with very little to do. That's a shame.
7. I love the twist of irony that eventually brings police scrutiny raining upon the head of Denzel's character. It reminded me of the insignificant detail that blew open "The French Connection" case years earlier. I admire how intelligence, observation and good old fashioned gut instinct steamrolls into something significant. Only the best cops have it.
8. And speaking of the procedural part of this film, I liked the pace of "American Gangster"- not only does it give time to Denzel's ingenious method of importing drugs into the country, but the film pays attention to the dogged perserverance exhibited by the good guys (including great supporting turns by John Hawkes, RZA, Yul Vasquez and Ted Levine). It's no "Zodiac" but its a worthy entry into my favorite "police procedural" genre of film.
9. I'm shocked that a 3 hour film made such a killing at the box office. Maybe there's hope.... wait, last time I checked "The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford" was still tanking.
10. I guess there was something good to come out of the camradarie of Ridley Scott and Crowe from "A Good Year".

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