To begin with "American Gangster" has two good performances by Russel Crowe, and Denzel Washington. The picture directed by Ridley Scott is an interesting crime drama about the rise and fall of Frank Lucas a heroin kingpin from Manhattan in the early seventies. It is also about Det. Richie Roberts who eventually brought down one of the most powerful drug lords of America while at the same time cleaning up NYC's corrupt police force. This is of what epics are made for, but American Gangster doesn't feel epic. Instead it feels like a long "Law & Order" episode. The art direction and cinematography of the film is quite good, and it exudes that 70's era flavor. NYC was in decay, and the big apple had a few worms in it.
The performances from both Washington, and Crowe are good, but nothing we've already not seen. Crowe's performance echos Paciono's performance in the film "Serpico", and Washington's performance gives us a bit of "Godfather", and a bit of "Scarface" in his performance as Lucas. Like I said nothing we haven't already seen before.
Ridley Scott's direction is typical Scott. Long on atmosphere, and solid acting performances from his two star performers as well as other actors such as Josh Brolin, Ruby Dee, Cuba Gooding Jr., Armand Assante, Ted Levine, and Joe Morton. I've never had a problem with any of Scott's films, but this one seems as though it could have been cut down. The movie is 157 minutes long, and the unrated version of the film is 176 minutes. Both Lucas & Roberts have said in interviews that a lot of the film's scenes never happened, and some Police officers that were involved in events depicted in the film have come forth and sued Universal for deformation of character.
The films truthfulness or lack of it doesn't hurt it. It is still an interesting film about the seventies and captures the period quite well. If you want to see a true account of the real Frank Lucas there is a documentary called "Superfly: The True, Untold Story of Frank Lucas, American Gangster".
If you like GOOD performances and an interesting story about crime & punishment in the United States "American Gangster" may be a film you might consider checking out.