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American Gangster (2007)

 The man I worked for had one of the biggest companies in New York City. He didn’t own his own company. White man owned it, so they owned him. Nobody owns me, though.

— Frank Lucas

I have previously watched American Gangster when an aunt loaned me the DVD of the movie. I watched a third of the movie when I stopped, because it was too long for me to pay any attention to it. I knew that the movie was nominated for two Oscars including a Best Supporting Actress nom for Ruby Dee for her five-minute role and for Best Art Direction. Watching the movie against almost made root for the bad guy… almost.

Harlem 1968. Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington) mourns the death of Bumpy Johnson (Clarence Williams III) who was a surrogate father to him. Bumpy was Frank’s teacher for dealing with the gangster life, especially for a black man in those times. Frank wants to take over in Bumpy’s place, but do things a little better. He wants to get the best product, which was cocaine to give to the people of Harlem. He wants to show his dominance with the other gangsters of the neighborhood like Tango (Idris Elba) who treats Frank like a servant and Nicky Barnes (Cuba Gooding, Jr.) who is all talk and no bit.

At the same time, an undercover cop, Richie Roberts (Russell Crowe) tries to be on the straight and narrow in a sea of corruption in the police department. Richie’s partner, Javier Rivera (John Ortiz) discovered a car that had almost a million dollars in it. John wants to keep some of the money, but Richie wants to do the right thing and turn them all in. he Richie is not the most popular cop in the precinct. He is going to night school to get his law degree and having to pay child support to his ex-wife, Laurie (Carla Cugino).

There is a crooked cop, Detective Trupo (Josh Brolin) who confiscated drugs from busts, water them down and sell them back to the bad guys for a profit. He wants to get some hush-hush money from Frank, but Frank doesn’t want to be another police lackey.

Opium and heroin are on the rise during this time and about goes to Bangkok to get the purest heroin that he could find. He finds it and sells it on the street as “Blue Magic” for dirt cheap. With the money from selling the 100 kilos of heroin, he buys a home for his Mama (Ruby Dee) and the rest of his family. Frank decides to expand his business and include his brothers in the process.

Meanwhile, Richie is hand selected to lead a special group of DEA agents to help bring down the drug trafficking ring. their first target is Frank Lucas.

The movie came with the theatrical version and the unrated version. I wanted to see the theatrical version, because it was short. The movie is 2:45 at least. That is a lot of movie about a bad guy selling drugs to his own people. The unrated version would make it three hours. No thanks. I was able to take the movie. there were some good moments in the movie that was bogged down by filler scene that I could do without.

Judgment: It’s interesting to see a movie about a black gangster, but I wish that it was a tighter story.

Rating: 7/10

True Grit (2010)

Punishment comes one way or another.

The Coen Brothers are the bally-est directors that I have seen. Remaking the 1969 movie that won John Wayne the Best Actor Oscar is risky. Remind you that I haven’t seen the original one. That would be a good thing that I did not come into the #191 Movie of All-Time, True Grit with any perceived notions.

 The starts with 14-year-old Mattie Ross (Haliee Steinfeld) traveling from Arkansas to claim the body of her father who was killed by Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin) after a drunken bar brawl. She tries to the local authorities to help find Chaney, but they have their thumbs up their butts, because Chaney escaped in Indian Territory.

Mattie hears the tale of the ruthless bounty hunter by the name of Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) who usually kills his bounty rather than bring them alive. She wants somebody to capture Chaney and bring him to justice. Mattie is surprised when she finds a lazy, filthy drunk. He tries to rebuke her hiring him to find Chaney.

A Texas sheriff named LaBeouf (Matt Damon) is also traveling to find Chaney, because he killed a Texas senator. LaBeouf and Rooster join forces to go into the Indian Territory to find Chaney with or without the headstrong Mattie tagging along.

 The movie overall was an enjoyable ride. It’s not the best movie that I have seen this year. Jeff Bridges as Rooster is hilarious. Hailee is fantastic in the film. It was surprised to see Barry Pepper in the movie.

The biggest disappoint that I had with the movie was Josh Brolin as Tom Chaney. He was great with his earlier collaboration with the Coens, No Country for Old Men. Here, he is supposed to play a simpleton and it feels like he was phoning it in.

Judgment: There was nothing else with the flick that raised it as a western. The acting and action saved it.

Rating: ****

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