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Academy Award winner Denzel Washington. Academy Award winner Russell Crowe. Visionary director Ridley Scott. What could go wrong?
I love American Ganster, and I love the extended cut even more. Russell is one of my favorite actors and Ridley is one of my favorite directors, and oh yeah Denzel has made a decent flick or two. For me this movie absolutely delivers with fantastic performances and a compelling story wonderfully directed. After getting the extended cut I wondered what it would like to watch each of the characters' stories on their own. As I contemplated the idea of the edit I read on on the film and learned its meandering path to production; this fanedit became a project I had to make happen.
When Ridley Scott was first presented Steven Zaillian's script which told the story of Frank Lucas and the Detective who took him down, he was intrigued and considered turning it into two films. He elected to do other projects at the time however and American Gangster toiled in development with a few false starts before it finally circled back into Scott's hands. While I greatly enjoy the film, I remember walking out of the theater feeling it was a mash of two stories which occasionally got in each other's way.
Now, in my opinion, there is really nothing wrong with American Gangster, I love the movie as is, and I enjoy the Extended Edition even more. While perhaps not on the same level as other classic, traditional gangster movies such as The Godfather, Goodfellas and so-on, American Gangster is a gripping story that melds a classic Gangster film concept, with something along the lines of the Untouchables where we see a driven cop trying to take down a crime figure. Both the protagonist and antagonist get equal treatment and screen-time so that you get both sides of the story.. the rise, and fall of the gangster as well as the struggles of the men who set out to take him down.
This edit restructures the narrative into three chapters:
1) One Good Cop: First we follow Detective Richie Roberts as he develops his team and attempts to uncover a new source of heroine plaguing New York and New Jersey. We watch resist rampant police corruption, put together a task force, follow leads and finally uncover the mastermind of the new wave of heroine plaguing NYC and New Jersey, but looking for the break that will elevate the investigation from circumstantial, to rock-solid.
2) It's Business: Next we follow the rise of Frank Lucas from enforcer, to heroine King-Pin. We watch as he builds his empire, and then slowly start to feel the pressure of sharks circling in.
3) Greed: We watch as Richie's carefully managed empire spirals out of control and the aftermath of his greed and hubris with both crooked and straight cops circling in.
The primary intent of this edit is to allow the viewer to focus on each character's story without cutting away to the other character, to watch each character as the hero of their story, and their perspective on the same basic narrative. I find that there is something interesting about being able to watch each play out with the character as hero of his own story until they crash into each other's worlds.