Movie – American Gangster

The latest in my season of firsts – a DVD review.

I’ve never hired a DVD; I believe a movie should be seen on the big screen as (Film) God intended but this was lent to me by a room mate and I disappointedly missed it at the cinema. There were just so many films to watch that Christmas that Denzel Washington lost the battle. Big mistake.

Unusually for me, I had a headache and as it was Sunday, I decided to take it easy and put this on. Brilliant idea.

The film is fantastically superior to the average mafia output with the exception of the best ever, Goodfellows.

The big plus is Denzel, playing the bad guy – all you need to know to make the decision to watch. It’s stylish, clever, moves at a good pace and seemingly factual about a gangster who learnt everything he knows by being driver, guard and number one guy to his late boss.

After the funeral, his best option, a black man in segregated, racist, poor New York in 1968 is to become him. Denzel’s character skilfully makes crime look like an art form as he starts laying down the law in his Harlem patch whilst most of the police force appears to be in the underworld’s back pocket. Except for the officer played by Russell Crowe who was hell bent on bringing an end to police corruption and needed to aim his arrests high at the big crime bosses to achieve this.

Everything about the movie oozed style and ticked all the boxes; looking after his own, keeping enemies close, not being flash, having arm candy who never asked questions, having a doting mother who never asked questions, lesser more showy gangsters being put in their place for drawing superfluous attention.

The new box being ticket here is the gangster is black – not Italian and he holds status above the more well known Italian community.

There’s something magical about the scary times of living in New York in the bad days of early 1970s and the oh so important film soundtrack subtly reflected this. The true story element helped.

I for one loved seeing the all too familiar, although recently discovered streets of Harlem. I was willing the camera to turn to walk up the streets I used to, west towards my coffee shop close to Columbia University and south towards central park north, where Harlem starts towards my old apartment close to Central Park West.

For the first time since I reluctantly came back from New York in April, I’m smiling with recognition and yearning, not sad.

It’s over 2 hours long but I relished every single morsel.  8/10    Smile Factor 8½/10  New York New York, so good they named it twice


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