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American Gangster


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American Gangster (Movies)
American Gangster (Movies)
American Gangster (Movies)
American Gangster (Movies)
American Gangster (Movies)
American Gangster (Movies)
American Gangster (Movies)
American Gangster (Movies)
American Gangster (Movies)
American Gangster (Movies)
American Gangster (Movies)
American Gangster (Movies)
American Gangster (Movies)
American Gangster (Movies)
American Gangster (Movies)
American Gangster (Movies)
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Information about American Gangster (film)

American Gangster is a 2007 (14 years ago) crime movie directed by Ridley Scott and starring Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe. Washington portrays Frank Lucas, a real-life gangster from Harlem who smuggled heroin into the United States on American service planes returning from the Vietnam War. Crowe portrays Richie Roberts, a detective attempting to bring down Lucas' drug empire. Filming was done on location in New York City. American Gangster was released in the United States and Canada on Nov. 2, 2007 (14 years ago). The movie was also nominated for two Academy Awards, including a notable Best Supporting Actress nomination for Ruby Dee who appears on screen for less than 10 minutes.


Ellsworth "Bumpy" Johnson (Clarence Williams III), a disciplined and intelligent gangster, runs much of Harlem and imparts his wisdom onto his former driver turned right-hand man, Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington). Johnson dies of a heart attack in 1968 (53 years ago), at an electronics store. Frank dislikes the new, flashy gangsters and decides to take control. To gain money and power, he travels to Bangkok, Thailand, and with the help of his "cousin" who is an Army Staff NCO, strikes a deal with a Chinese nationalist general in the Golden Triangle of Southeast Asia, who supplies him with pure heroin. Starting with a first shipment of 100 kilograms, Frank has the drugs transported back to America via military service planes. His final shipment comprises two tons hidden in the coffins of seven dead U.S. soldiers from the Vietnam War.

Meanwhile, Newark Police Department detective Richie Roberts (Russell Crowe) is juggling a failing marriage, late-night law school classes, and his police career. When Richie and his partner, Javier Rivera, discover nearly $1 million in unmarked bills in a car, Richie resists temptation and turns the money in. His rare honesty makes him a hated member of his precinct, causing his partner to be exiled from the force, while Richie's rampant womanizing behavior and undercover double life leads his wife to seek a divorce and custody of their son. After his exiled partner dies from overdosing on "Blue Magic", a relatively new and powerful type of heroin being sold for less money than its competition, Richie's honesty catches him a break when his superior Captain Lou Toback (Ted Levine) puts him in charge of a newly created task force to stop major drug trafficking in Essex County, New Jersey by going after the actual supplier, rather than the middle-men. Richie handpicks honest cops and gets to work on finding who is supplying Blue Magic.

Frank's unique drug supply enables him to sell pure heroin, as contrasted with the adulterated product sold by his rivals, and at a lower price, because he cut out the middle men in the supply chain. He creates a brand “Blue Magic” and with an effective monopoly on quality product, Frank quickly makes a fortune and buys several nightclubs and apartments. He moves his family from North Carolina to New Jersey, where he purchases a large estate for his humble mother. His five brothers are enlisted as his lieutenants in the drug trade – forming “The Country Boys” who work together to traffic and sell dope on Harlem streets. During his rise, Frank meets and falls in love with Eva, a Puerto Rican beauty queen. Through his discipline, organization, and willingness to kill those in his way, Frank quickly rises to the top of the Harlem drug and crime scene.

As Frank's business prospers, he makes a point of operating quietly and dressing with a modest conservatism both as a sign of strength and to avoid attracting the attention of the law. However, Frank disregards this habit for his wife for one ostentatious night out, attending the Fight of the Century between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, in a gaudy chinchilla fur coat and hat, along with a ringside seat. As it happens, Roberts is on duty observing the event and sees this unknown, but obviously wealthy person associating with high-level criminals, as well as having better seats than the Italian Mafia. Roberts becomes suspicious, and he begins to investigate this unknown (to him) figure in New York organized crime.

Even as Frank realizes he has exposed himself to police scrutiny, he must make deals with the Mafia, in this case Lucchese crime family Mob boss Dominic Cattano (Armand Assante), and fend off corrupt NYPD detectives, such as Det. Trupo (Josh Brolin), who attempt to extort and threaten him. Trupo's dislike of Frank is capped when his prized Shelby Mustang is bombed before his eyes. Frank must also contend with local crime figure Nicky Barnes (Cuba Gooding, Jr.), who is taking some of Frank's product, diluting it himself, and selling it under Frank's "Blue Magic" brand name. Unidentified assassins try to kill Frank’s wife, further destabilizing him and threatening his marriage. Things take a turn for the worse when Frank sees the U.S. military vacating Vietnam, Fall of Saigon, which in turn cuts off his primary heroin transportation. His Kuomintang supplier sympathetically tells him "Quitting while you are not the same as quitting."

Richie catches another break when his men witness Frank's cousin shooting a woman. They use the driver’s predicament to get him to wear a wire. The wire allows Richie and his task force to discover when a plane carrying drugs is landing, though Richie is ordered to cease his search of the coffins by a Federal agent who snarls an anti-Semitic slur at him. Meanwhile, Trupo leads his band of police officers to Frank's mansion where they take Frank's emergency cash supply. Frank is enraged at what Trupo did, and sets out to kill him and other associated officers. Frank's mother pleads that he not go through with it, and Frank decides not to murder Trupo. When the plane lands, Richie and his men follow the drugs into Newark's projects and obtain a warrant. A huge group of police and detectives attack the drug apartments en masse and a large shootout ensues. Steve Lucas, Frank's nephew who gave up a promising baseball career with the New York Yankees and began work for his uncle dies in the shootout. Frank is at church when the bust goes down, but he is arrested after the service ends. Frank and Richie finally meet, and Frank’s attempts to threaten Richie are unsuccessful. Richie tells Frank that he will go to prison for the rest of his life unless he provides all the information he has, and accurately.

With no other options, Frank decides to provide names of numerous other criminals, including his and Richie’s common enemies: corrupt NYC detectives. Numerous corrupt cops are arrested, and a distraught Trupo kills himself to avoid arrest. Richie, having passed the bar exam, prosecutes Frank. Some time after the Lucas trial, he eventually leaves the prosecutor's office, and becomes a defense attorney. The first client he takes is Frank. Because of his cooperation, Frank receives a relatively light sentence of 15 years rather than the original 70. He is arrested in 1975 (46 years ago). At the film’s end, he steps out of jail in 1991 (30 years ago) significantly older and out of place.


  • Denzel Washington as Frank Lucas
  • Russell Crowe as Det. Richard "Richie" Roberts
  • John Ortiz as Det. Javier Rivera
  • Lymari Nadal as Eva Kendo Lucas
  • Chiwetel Ejiofor as Huey Lucas
  • Josh Brolin as Det. Trupo
  • Ted Levine as Capt. Lou Toback
  • RZA as Moses Jones
  • Malcom Goodwin as Jimmy Zee
  • Ruby Dee as Mama Lucas
  • Armand Assante as Dominic Cattano
  • Cuba Gooding Jr. as Nicky Barnes
  • Roger Guenveur Smith as Nate
  • Carla Gugino as Laurie Roberts
  • Idris Elba as Tango
  • Jon Polito as Rossi
  • Roger Bart as U.S. Attorney
  • Clarence Williams III as Ellsworth "Bumpy" Johnson
  • Clifford "T.I." Harris as Steve Lucas
  • Lonnie "Common" Lynn as Turner Lucas



Scott had discussed the script with actor Russell Crowe as they worked on A Good Year (2006, 15 years ago) in France, and they sought to take on the project. The director reviewed Zaillian's script, Terry George's rewrite, and a revision by Richard Price during the project's incarnation with director Antoine Fuqua. Scott preferred Zaillian's approach and chose to follow it. In realizing the project, the director encountered a challenge in the script since the characters Frank Lucas and Richie Roberts do not encounter each other until twenty minutes before the end of the film. The director sought to flesh out the private universes of the characters that would evolve and have scenes cut between the two characters to provide a balance. Elements like Frank Lucas's interaction with his family and Richie Roberts' dysfunctional marriage were written to add to the characters' backgrounds.


Denzel Washington, left, and Russell Crowe, right, both met the real-life figures that they portrayed for American Gangster to capture their voices and mannerisms.Scott chose to direct American Gangster based on the paradoxical values of Frank Lucas and Richie Roberts. The movie focuses a bit on the comparatively ethical business practices of the "wicked gangster" and the womanizing and failed marriage of the "do-gooder" police detective. Washington, who was not normally a fan of gangster films, chose to portray Lucas when he saw "the arc of the character" had ended with prices that Lucas paid for his actions. Crowe was drawn to the project based on his previous work with the director on Gladiator and A Good Year. Production was slated in summer 2006 (15 years ago). To prepare for their roles, the actors met their real-life counterparts. Washington acquired Lucas's Southern accent, and Crowe practiced to match Roberts's manner of speaking and body language, requesting tape recordings of Roberts to assist in his preparation. The following March, the studio rehired Zaillian to rewrite the script for American Gangster. It was rumored that Washington got paid another $20 million for when the project was greenlit again, that rumor proved to be false. According to Variety, he only signed on for his gross.


Director Ridley Scott produced TV commercials from the 1960 (61 years ago) to the 1980s, which entailed visits to New York City in the same time period in which the film's story took place. The director sought to downplay a "Beatles" atmosphere to the movie and to instead create a shabbier atmosphere. Scott described his perspective of the setting, "Harlem was really, really shabby, beautiful brownstones falling apart." Production and costume design was emphasized, transforming the location into the rundown streets of upper Manhattan from the late 1960 (61 years ago) and early 1970 (51 years ago). Denzel Washington, as Frank Lucas, went through 64 different costume changes.

The director filmed American Gangster in 180 locations, an unusually high number for production, throughout New York's five boroughs. Approximately 50 to 60 locations were set in Harlem alone. The director also found several interiors that had been untouched since the 1940 (81 years ago) and despite sanitary concerns, chose to movie scenes in these locations.Frank Lucas's apartment in the movie was filmed at Hilton Hotel New York in Midtown Manhattan. All the locations in the movie were authentic, with the exception of Frank Lucas' coffee shop, built as a set at the northeast corner of 122nd St and Lenox Avenue. Scott found filming in Harlem to be difficult, describing it as "an area of wide-avenued boulevards" whose concrete pavement and lack of trees provided poor opportunities for shooting angles. As well as being filmed in the five boroughs it was also filmed in Westchester County in Briarcliff Manor.


In 2000 (21 years ago), Universal pictures (wallpaper) and Imagine Entertainment purchased the rights to "The Return of Superfly", a New York magazine story by Mark Jacobson about the rise and fall of the 1970 (51 years ago) heroin kingpin Frank Lucas. In 2002 (19 years ago), screenwriter Steven Zaillian brought a 170-page script to director Ridley Scott, who expressed interest in making two movies from it. However, Scott did not immediately pursue the project. In Nov. 2003 (18 years ago), Universal and Imagine entered negotiations with Brian De Palma to direct Tru Blu, with a script by Zaillian based on Frank Lucas. Zaillian interpreted the story as one of "American business and race", focusing the script thematically on corporate business. Production was initially slated for a spring 2004 (17 years ago) start. In Mar. 2004 (17 years ago), the studio entered new negotiations with Antoine Fuqua to direct, as well as Denzel Washington to star in the movie as Frank Lucas. The following May, Benicio Del Toro entered negotiations to star as Detective Richie Roberts, who brought down Lucas. Production of Tru Blu was reset to begin in early fall 2004 (17 years ago), with the movie slated for a release date of Jun. 3, 2005 (16 years ago). In sep. 2004 (17 years ago), Dania Ramirez (4 walls) entered negotiations to join the cast of the film, now titled American Gangster.

Universal pictures (wallpaper) reported that it greenlit American Gangster with a budget of $80 million, which escalated to $93 million, with $10 million for development costs and $3 million for the delay of the production start date. Sources close to the director insist that the budget was $93 million from the beginning. The studio also sought for American Gangster to be produced in Toronto rather than New York City to save money, but Fuqua resisted the re-location. The studio's parent company General Electric received tax credits in New York City, so production was moved to the city. The move, however, inflated the budget to $98 million. Fuqua's camp insisted that it was seeking ways to reduce the budget, but the studio contended several aspects of the project under him. The director had wanted to movie a Vietnam sequence in Thailand and to cast notable names such as Ray Liotta and John C. Reilly in minor roles. To add to the studio's budgetary concerns, Fuqua was rewriting the script during the preproduction process. The director also did not have a shot-list, final locations, and supporting actors signed to initiate production.

Fuqua was fired on Oct. 1, 2004 (17 years ago), four weeks before principal photography would begin. The studio cited creative differences for the director's departure. After Fuqua's departure, the studio met with Peter Berg to take over directing the film, and Denzel Washington had approved of the choice. Due to the search potentially escalating a budget already in the US$80 million range and the difficulty in recouping the amount based on the film's subject matter, Universal canceled production of American Gangster, citing time constraints and creative elements for its reason. The cancellation cost the studio $30 million, of which $20 million went to Washington and $5 million went to del Toro due to their pay or play contracts. Entertainment Weekly reported that Fuqua's ambition to produce the movie was primarily based on the prospect of an African-American director and an African-American actor leading a big-budget movie that would potentially be nominated for Oscars.

In Mar. 2005 (16 years ago), American Gangster was revived as Universal and Imagine entered negotiations with Terry George to revise Zaillian's script and direct the film, which was to be financed with a target budget of US $50 million. The following May, Will Smith (6 walls) was approached to replace Washington as Frank Lucas, though an offer would be held off until George completed his revision of the script. After a meeting between Scott and Zaillian on another project, Zaillian brought the project up again with Scott, who decided he was ready to do it. Producer Brian Grazer and Imagine executive Jim Whitaker decided against pursuing George's attempt and to return to Zaillian's vision. In Feb. 2006 (15 years ago), Ridley Scott entered talks with the studio to take over American Gangster from George, returning to Zaillian's draft as the film's basis. Washington returned to his role as Lucas, and Russell Crowe was attached to star as Roberts.


The movie received generally favorable reviews from critics. At the review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes, 79% of 199 reviewers approved of American Gangster. On the similar Metacritic, 38 accumulated reviews gave the movie an average score of 76 out of 100. American Gangster was observed as a candidate for the Oscars based on the film's style and the performance of the actors, including the possibility of an Academy Award for Best Director for Ridley Scott. In an interview Lucas "was gushing" about the movie and Denzel Washington's performance; he said that he felt amazement "at the way he had (him) down." A New York Post article by Susannah Callahan stated that Lucas "admitted to sources that 'only 20 percent of the movie is true.'" According to the same article Roberts criticized the movie for portraying him in a custody battle while in real life he never had a child. Roberts criticized the portrayal of Lucas, describing it as "almost noble."

Sterling Johnson, Jr., a federal judge who served as a special narcotics prosecutor and assisted the arrest and trial of Lucas, described the movie as "1 percent reality and 99 percent Hollywood." Johnson described the real life Lucas as "illiterate," "vicious," "violent," and "everything Denzel Washington was not." Former DEA agents Jack Toal, Gregory Korniloff, and Louis Diaz filed a lawsuit against Universal saying that the events in the movie were fictionalized and that the movie defamed them and hundreds of other agents. The lawsuit was eventually dismissed.


  1. "Do You Feel Me" – 3:56 - Performed by Anthony Hamilton
  2. "Why Don't We Do It in the Road?" – 3:46 - Performed by Lowell Fulson
  3. "No Shoes" – 2:24 - Performed by John Lee Hooker
  4. "Across 110th Street" – 3:47 - Performed by Bobby Womack
  5. "Stone Cold" – 4:06 - Performed by Anthony Hamilton
  6. "Hold On I'm Comin'" – 2:31 - Performed by Sam & Dave
  7. "I'll Take You There" – 4:34 - Performed by The Staple Singers
  8. "Can't Truss It" – 4:39 - Performed by Public Enemy
  9. "Checkin' Up on My Baby" – 2:12 - Performed by Hank Shocklee
  10. "Club Jam" – 3:10 - Performed by Hank Shocklee
  11. "Railroad" – 2:20 - Performed by Hank Shocklee
  12. "Nicky Barnes" – 3:11 - Performed by Hank Shocklee
  13. "Hundred Percent Pure" – 2:13 - Performed by Marc Streitenfeld
  14. "Frank Lucas" – 2:40 - Performed by Marc Streitenfeld


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