American Gangster (18)

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The Independent Culture

American Gangster is a true-crime thriller directed by Ridley Scott. It stars Denzel Washington as Frank Lucas, a brutal but careful crime lord who controls the heroin trade in Harlem in the early 1970s. His co-star – although they don't meet until the final scenes – is Russell Crowe's Richie Roberts, an incorruptible cop who heads a new anti-drugs task force.

It all sounds promising, but American Gangster just isn't very exciting. Scott opts for unshowy efficiency instead of his usual visual flair, and his leading men are neither charismatic nor credibly complicated. Lucas and Roberts deserve a fascinating biopic each, but by dividing its attention so scrupulously between the two of them, American Gangster sells short two larger-than-life individuals.