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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

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L.A. Confidential (1997)

I see Bud because I want to. I see Bud because he can’t hide the good inside of him. I see Bud because he treats me like Lynn Bracken and not some Veronica Lake look-alike who fucks for money.

— Lynn Bracken

It has been years since I have seen Curtis Hanson’s L.A. Confidential. Too long, I should say. This is currently #61 on the Top 250 of All-Time on IMDb. It deserves to be there. I thought it was overshadowed by a certain movie about a doomed boat that dominated the 1997 Oscars. It managed to win Oscars for Best Adapted Screenplay for Hanson and fellow screenwriter Brian Helgeland and Best Supporting Actress honors for Kim Basinger. This movie is a masterpiece. There I said it.

Based on the first book from author James Ellroy’s L.A. Quartet trilogy, it starts with the murder of known drug dealer, Mickey Cohen (Paul Guilfoyle). This triggers a systematic takedown of his men. Three 1950s LA cops have to deal with the case from different angles. Officer Bud White, played by at the time unknown to American audiences Russell Crowe. White was the brute of the force that has a short fuse. Sgt. Jack Vincennes (Kevin Spacey) that thinks that he is the star of the precinct because he is the technical advisor on the hit TV cop show, “Badge of Honor.” He is in cahoots with sleazy gossip columnist, Sid Hudgens (Danny DeVito) trading criminals and drugs for money and headlines in Hush-Hush magazine. Sgt. Ed Exley (Guy Pearce) is the straight-laced officer that wants to a detective, but doesn’t have the stomach for the job.

Exley witnesses the extent of the corruption in the station when a group of Mexicans are beaten by most of the officers, because they were suspects of beating up a couple of cops. The fallout of this incident trickled down when White is suspended for not testifying against his boozy partner, Dick Stensland (Graham Beckel). Exley is the complete opposite; he would be labeled ‘the snitch’ to get a new promotion, a deputy lieutenant. Vincennes is reassigned from narcotics to vice. Fellow officers would backstab each other to save their own asses. White would be the muscle working under Capt. Dudley (James Cromwell).

At one of the drug-related murder scenes, Vincennes finds a card for “Fleur-de-lis” that could be connected to a murder at the Nite Owl Café where Stensland gets killed. The station thinks that a trio of Negro shooters was responsible for it. They hunt them down. Meanwhile, White recognizes of one of the victims as a girl he has seen in the back of Pierce Patchett’s (David Strathairn) car with Lynn Bracken (Kim Basinger) in tow. White learns that Patchett is running a prostitution ring to make the call girl look like Hollywood movie stars.

As the investigation intensifies, loyalties are tested, friendships are broken, and people show their true colors.

I may not have written how brilliant this movie is. All I say is that Curtis Hanson has a created a movie that had fantastic, crisp dialogue delivered perfectly from the main stars to the supporting players. The tension was there. I was on the edge of my seat. I know what was coming, but I still felt something about the characters. What is going to happen to them? The costumes, the art direction, it felt like I was in the 1950s. It didn’t feel like a fake movie set. It was organic. It had a life of its own. I appreciate that. Brava, Mr. Hanson.

Judgment: A fantastic film noir that makes you could to revisit more of them after watching this.

Rating: *****

3:10 to Yuma (2007)

three_ten_to_yuma

I’ve always liked you Byron, but you never know when to shut up. Even bad men love their mommas.

— Ben Wade

Trying to acclimate myself to the western genre, I watched the 2007 remake of 3:10 to Yuma. The movie has an all-star cast with Russell Crowe and Christian Bale, but the movie was mind-numbing. It was like a dead fish thrashing around.

Ben Wade (Crowe) is a famous outlaw in the Old West that is captured by rebel brigade that includes a rancher, Dan Evans (Bale). He is being transported on a train to Yuma so he could be executed by hanging. His partner, Charlie Prince (Ben Foster) wants to stop the transport.

Nothing happens in the movie. The movie was so boring that I had to turn it off. It is the same premise with the lead man wronged by the government to take their land and they go on a journey to get money for their money. Do something different, please.

It tried to be a modern western, but it rang false. I did not believe that these people lived in the 1880s.

Judgment: Watch the original movie instead of this drivel.

Rating: *1/2

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