American Gangster 2007

Critics score:
80 / 100

Reviews provided by RottenTomatoes

John Hartl, Seattle Times: Scott guided Crowe to an Oscar in Gladiator, and once more he brings out the actor's vulnerable side. Read more

Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune: While you may wish the superlatively talented cast of American Gangster had a classic to show for their efforts, a good modern gangster film is its own reward. Read more

J. R. Jones, Chicago Reader: Great cast... Read more

Joe Morgenstern, Wall Street Journal: The better it gets -- and the drama grows in power over its quasi-epic course of 157 minutes -- the more it brings to mind the truly great gangster films of American movie history. Read more

Tasha Robinson, AV Club: Normally, Scott loves his flash-bang setpieces, but he proves equally adept at low-key verisimilitude and long-form storytelling, the kind that sprawls out over years of incidents that only gradually add up to a powerful whole. Read more

Bill Goodykoontz, Arizona Republic: American Gangster shoots for epic stature and misses, but Washington hits the mark from start to finish in one of the year's best performances, the one element that earns the larger-than-life status the rest of the film so desperately seeks. Read more

Wesley Morris, Boston Globe: The entire movie is caught between being a work of seriousness and a work of absurdity. Read more

Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times: It takes nerve to call a film American Gangster -- But once you see this finely made and richly satisfying film, you understand it's the only title possible. Read more

Amy Biancolli, Houston Chronicle: It's a much better film than nine-tenths of what's out there on any given Friday, and if you're a fan of steak-and-potatoes crime drama, I highly recommend it. Read more

Peter Rainer, Christian Science Monitor: It's an entertaining pulp pastiche with pretensions. Read more

Lisa Kennedy, Denver Post: For talent, Scott couldn't start much purer. Washington and Crowe are consummate craftsmen who burrow deep into their characters. Read more

Tom Long, Detroit News: Every bit as generic as its title, American Gangster is a Frankenstein creature of a film, put together from the parts of other famous gangster flicks yet lacking in both the fury and wild-eyed vision the best of the genre have to offer. Read more

Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly: American Gangster is meticulous and detailed, a drug-world epic that holds you from moment to moment, immersing you in the intricate and sleazy logistics of crime. Read more

Jonathan F. Richards, How much truth we get in the movie version is hard to say...nobody much cares if it's gospel, as long as it's riveting. Here, alas, it is not. Read more

Terry Lawson, Detroit Free Press: You can safely watch it without feeling guilty, or indicted. Read more

Chris Vognar, Dallas Morning News: Ridley Scott packs the film with period detail and vivid, violent energy reminiscent of high-grade Scorsese, then mixes in a Lumet-like, keenly observed outrage at systemic corruption. Read more

Amy Nicholson, I.E. Weekly: Scott's not interested in fireworks but small implosions of the soul and ego. Read more

Bruce Newman, San Jose Mercury News: In its title character, the movie has created a murdering, dope-slinging millionaire from the streets that even Denzel Washington has managed to make boring. Read more

Jan Stuart, Newsday: As with an earlier star who fed off career criminals, Humphrey Bogart, there is always something a bit smarmy about Washington, even in his heroic mode; the nastier his character grows, the looser his acting becomes. Read more

Christy Lemire, Associated Press: Washington, as real-life heroin kingpin Frank Lucas, and Crowe, as detective Richie Roberts, are on a collision course with one another that's bursting with the gritty period atmosphere of 1970s Harlem. Read more

David Ansen, Newsweek: For all its grit, style and atmosphere, Gangster never sweeps you away. It has neither the lurid bravado of De Palma's "Scarface" nor the intimate grasp of the criminal lifestyle you find in Scorsese or Coppola. Read more

David Denby, New Yorker: It's Super Fly -- which also had a drug-dealer hero -- without the cartoon cruddiness and the put-on violence and with an enormous increase of range and detail. Read more

David Edelstein, New York Magazine/Vulture: Their ambition is out there. But for all the sprawl, American Gangster feels secondhand. It's like Scarface drained of blood, at arm's length from the culture that spawned it. Read more

Bob Mondello, Ridley Scott's gangster flick aims high and mostly measures up. Read more

Jack Mathews, New York Daily News: This is Washington's movie as much as it is Lucas' story, and he is as entertainingly evil here as in his Oscar-winning performance as a bad cop in Training Day. Read more

Lou Lumenick, New York Post: One of the year's best movies -- and surely a major Oscar contender. Read more

Andrew Sarris, New York Observer: One must applaud American Gangster as the kind of socko entertainment many people thought Hollywood filmmakers had become incapable of. It is not to be missed. Read more

Roger Moore, Orlando Sentinel: It's not just Oscar bait for its two dazzling leading men. It's a fascinating look at the Land of Opportunity as seen through the eyes of its most amoral opportunists. Read more

Carrie Rickey, Philadelphia Inquirer: Both he [Washington] and Ruby Dee, as his mother, give Oscar-caliber performances. Read more

James Berardinelli, ReelViews: Washington rules the screen. His portrayal is one of many things that elevates this film to the level of being consistently entertaining and occasionally compelling. Read more

Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times: This is an engrossing story, told smoothly and well, and Russell Crowe's contribution is enormous. Read more

Stephanie Zacharek, As a piece of storytelling -- built on the foundation of a great story -- it's an epic that's been sliced and diced into so many little morsels that almost nothing in it has any weight. Read more

Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle: American Gangster is an enjoyable double character study, and the movie's length ultimately becomes an advantage. Read more

Dana Stevens, Slate: What should have been a clash of two opposing moral universes instead comes off as a wan buddy flick. Read more

Colin Covert, Minneapolis Star Tribune: A strikingly photogenic but lethargic cops and crimelords yarn, it gives us a number of formidable talents laboring on a story that never develops the headlong momentum it needs. It's a brooding, serious character study impersonating a crime thriller. Read more

Liam Lacey, Globe and Mail: As an entertaining cops-and-crook procedural -- it's not half-bad, jacked up by strong performances, a couple of bravura action scenes and a generous attention to period detail. Read more

Geoff Pevere, Toronto Star: Ridley Scott's listless Big Statement is a wheezy, hot air-inflated dud. Read more

Richard Schickel, TIME Magazine: An intelligent, well-made and seductive movie. Read more

Joshua Rothkopf, Time Out: Ridley Scott is the weak link; he's never made a film this for-hire. Even Scott's signature misted atmosphere is absent. Read more

Jonathan Crocker, Time Out: Like much of his oeuvre, Scott's scaled-up movie is bigger than life - and lesser for it. But while never digging deeply or darkly enough to match its own grand vision of itself, slick technique drives the story forward with pace and style. Read more

Claudia Puig, USA Today: The movie, based on a true story, takes surprising twists and turns right up to its chilling ending and is probably the best gangster crime drama of the year. Read more

Todd McCarthy, Variety: Washington's steely grip on his impersonation of Frank Lucas holds the film together. Read more

J. Hoberman, Village Voice: Ambitious as American Gangster is, it's well suited to Denzel Washington's particular star quality. Read more

Stephen Hunter, Washington Post: It has the aspirations of an epic of crime and punishment, a superb feel for time and milieu, and an almost subliminal feel for myth. Read more