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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

Eve’s Bayou (1997)

Memory is a selection of images, some elusive, others printed indelibly on the brain. The summer I killed my father, I was 10 years old.

— Eve

It has been a decade since I have seen Kasi Lemmons’ Eve’s Bayou. I remember that it was sitting in my grandmother’s VHS shelf for years gathering dust for all I know. I saw a copy of the movie that my library and picked. I remember certain parts of the movie, but it’s good to have a refresher.

1962 Louisana is where we have the story of the Batiste family. Eve (Jurnee Smollett) named after an ancestor that saved her master from dying, is being treated unfairly by the family. Being the middle child, she is left out in the cold.

During a house party one night, Eve caught her father, Louis (Samuel L. Jackson) being intimate with a woman, Metty Mereaux (Lisa Nicole Carson) in the carriage house where she was hiding. Traumatized about what she saw, Louis tries to keep his secret quiet from his wife, Roz (Lynn Whitfield).

She tries to tell her older sister, Cisely (Meagan Good) about what she saw, but Cisely chooses not to believe her. She thinks that she is lying. Cisely spins the story to say that they were drunk and falling on each other.

Eve begins to have terrible nightmares or maybe they are premonitions of what things are to come. She hangs around her Aunt Mozelle (Debbi Morgan) who is the psychic around the bayou and possibly practices voodoo.

Roz knows deep down in her soul that Louis is being unfaithful to her. She regrets leaving her family for a snake in the grass. Walking down by the bayou, Roz and Mozelle stumbles upon Elzora (Diahann Carroll), a rival psychic of Mozelle’s. Curious Roz decides to have a reading that warns her of impending doom in her family. Unimpressed by Elzora, Mozelle asks for a reading. Elzora tells her that she is a “black widow” cursed with having the loves of her life dies in front of her very eyes.

Slowly but surely, the secrets that were long-buried deep come up in unexpected ways. The family lives turn upside down.

It is refreshing to see a black movie that has complex characters. They are fully realized. I especially enjoyed watching Debbi Morgan’s performance. She won nominated for a couple of awards for her performance and won the Indie Spirit Award. It was well deserved.

Judgment: A movie that has heart, but tends to veer into the melodramatic at times.

Rating: 7.5/10

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