“For decades, Tinseltown has engaged in a torrid love affair with the gangster. And like so many love affairs, the allure was based as much in myth and fantasy as in truth — meaning that many of cinema’s greatest scoundrels and criminals have also been its greatest heroes. Murderers, drug dealers, thieves, corruptors — the silver screen has welcomed and celebrated them all, provided they supply [the] requisite style and gravitas.
“ ‘American Gangster’ takes this notion to its logical extreme. Often dazzling, often gripping, always watchable, it exerts the sort of glamorous, high-gloss magnetism that comes from having the best Hollywood minds and star-power that money (about $100 million, in this case) can buy. [. . .]
“[W]ith A-list leading men Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe in the leads, featuring a supernova’s worth of star power, the movie is never less than entertaining. But despite the epic proportions to which its title aspires, it rarely rises above the level of entertainment. And its narrative implications, by any reasonable reading, are simply bizarre. It lionizes a man who was among the progenitors of inner-city drug culture, and weirdly implies, without any hint of irony or self-awareness, that the spread of addiction in black culture was a triumph of racial
— Peter Suderman, writing on “Gangster’s Paradise,” Nov. 5 at NationalReview.com
Minority crime lords as a sign of racial progress. Scene from “American Gangster”