American Gangster

  • 2007 157 minutes

    Clerical work, errands, organizing, trimming, scanning, and copying

    The beginning shows enforcer Frank Lucas (drug lord)|Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington) burning and shooting a rival to death. Meanwhile Bumpy Johnson|Ellsworth "Bumpy" Johnson (Clarence Williams III), a disciplined and intelligent gangster, runs much of Harlem and imparts his wisdom onto Frank, his former driver turned right-hand man. Johnson dies of a heart attack in 1968, at an electronics store. Frank dislikes the new, flashy gangsters that are in line to take over Harlem and decides to take control himself.

    Meanwhile, Newark Police Department detective Richie Roberts (Russell Crowe) is juggling a failing marriage, late-night law school classes, and his police career. When Richie and his partner, Javier Rivera (John Ortiz), discover nearly $1 million in unmarked bills in a car, Richie resists temptation and turns the money in. His rare honesty makes him a hated member of his precinct, causing his partner to be exiled from the force, while Richie's rampant womanizing behavior and undercover double life leads his wife to seek a divorce and custody of their son. After his exiled partner dies from overdosing on "Blue Magic", a relatively new and powerful type of heroin being sold for less money than its competition, Richie's honesty catches him a break when his superior Captain Lou Toback (Ted Levine) puts him in charge of a newly created task force to stop major drug trafficking in Essex County, New Jersey by going after the actual supplier, rather than the middle-men. Richie handpicks honest cops and gets to work on finding who is supplying Blue Magic.

    Blue Magic is being supplied by Frank Lucas. After hearing stories of cheap drugs from servicemen returning from Vietnam, Lucas decided to cut out the middleman and buy his drugs directly from the producers in Thailand. By cutting out the middle man, Frank is able to provide a higher quality product at a cheaper price than his rivals, eventually wholesaling drugs to most of the dealers in the New York area. He smuggles his drugs into the country in coffins of servicemen killed in the Vietnam War. He creates a brand ?Blue Magic? and with a great monopoly on quality product, Frank quickly makes a fortune and buys several nightclubs and apartments. He moves his family from North Carolina to New Jersey, where he purchases a large estate for his humble mother. His five brothers are enlisted as his lieutenants in the drug trade ? forming ?The Country Boys? who work together to traffic and sell dope on New York area streets. During his rise, Frank meets and falls in love with Eva, a Puerto Rico|Puerto Rican beauty queen. Through his discipline, organization, and willingness to kill those in his way, Frank quickly rises to the top of the Harlem drug and crime scene.

    As Frank's business prospers, he makes a point of operating quietly and dressing with a modest conservatism both as a sign of strength and to avoid attracting the attention of the law. However, Frank disregards this habit for his soon-to-be wife for one ostentatious night out, attending the Fight of the Century between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, in a gaudy chinchilla fur coat and hat, along with a ringside seat. As it happens, Roberts is on duty observing the event and sees this unknown, but obviously wealthy person associating with high-level criminals, as well as having better seats than the Italian Mafia. Roberts becomes suspicious, and he begins to investigate this unknown (to him) figure in New York organized crime.

    Even as Frank realizes he has exposed himself to police scrutiny, he must make deals with the Mafia, in this case Lucchese crime family Mob boss Dominic Cattano (Armand Assante), and fend off corrupt NYPD detectives, such as Det. Trupo (Josh Brolin), who attempt to extort and threaten him. Trupo's dislike of Frank is capped when his prized Shelby Mustang is bombed before his eyes. Frank must also contend with local crime figure Nicky Barnes (Cuba Gooding, Jr.), who is taking some of Frank's product, diluting it himself, and selling it under Frank's "Blue Magic" brand name. Unidentified assassins try to kill Frank?s wife, further destabilizing him and threatening his marriage. Things take a turn for the worse when the Fall of Saigon cuts off Frank's supply. His Kuomintang supplier sympathetically tells him "Quitting while you are ahead...is not the same as quitting."

    Richie catches another break when his men witness Frank's cousin shooting a woman. They use the driver?s predicament to get him to wear a wire. The wire allows Richie and his task force to discover when a plane carrying drugs is landing. The plane is a C-130 carrying some of the last U.S. Soldiers returning from Vietnam. Richie has his men search everyone and everything literally tearing the plane apart and even looking in the coffins of dead soldiers. Richie is ordered to cease his search by a Federal agent, who dismisses the influence of Frank and his "negro"-run drug family. Meanwhile, Trupo and his men break into Frank's mansion and steals his emergency cash supply. Frank initially sets out to kill Trupo, but his mother manages to dissuade him.

    When the plane lands, Richie and his men follow the drugs into Newark's projects and obtain a warrant. A huge group of police and detectives attack the drug apartments en masse and a large shootout ensues. Steve Lucas, Frank's nephew (T.I.), who gave up a promising baseball career with the New York Yankees to work for his uncle, is shot in the shootout. Frank is at church when the bust goes down, but he is arrested after the service ends. Richie meets with Frank and makes it clear to him that he has enough evidence to put him away for the rest of his life. He then tells Frank that he has a chance of doing a shorter term in jail if he helps him in the case.

    With no other options, Frank decides to provide names of numerous other criminals, including his and Richie?s common enemies: corrupt NYC detectives. Numerous corrupt cops are arrested, and a distraught Trupo kills himself to avoid arrest. Richie, having passed the bar exam, prosecutes Frank. In the end, three quarters of NYC's Drug Enforcement Agency are arrested and convicted. Some time after the Lucas trial, he eventually leaves the prosecutor's office, and becomes a defense attorney. The first client he takes is Frank. Because of his cooperation, Frank receives a relatively light sentence of 15 years rather than the original 70. He is arrested in 1975. At the film?s end, he steps out of jail in 1991 significantly older and out of place.

    In the extended edition on DVD, Richie meets with Frank after his prison sentence, and they both walk along a more peaceful and clean Harlem. Frank wonders what he will do for the rest of his life, and jokes about going back into his old business, which Richie quickly remarks that being a bad idea and promises to support Frank until he can get back on his feet. Frank also mentions that he hasn't talked to his brothers (or the rest of his family) for years, and comments that, "It's probably best for them." Frank is very apprehensive of the new things such as a high end sneaker store, as well as the new street gangsters that now walk around Harlem. The film ends with Frank remarking, "Even a fool gets to be young once."
    [Plot summary provided by WikiPedia]

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