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Watching historical events expressed by Hollywood schtick ain't easy. It's kind of like when someone with a speech impediment tries to tell you something important. Much as they try, you need to get the message from some other source. Sitting through "American Gangster" was like watching a meat-grinder shove actual events into existing holes of cop-movie cliches.

The plot is a collection of sewn-together parts from better movies. Need to highlight the Heroic White Guy's honesty? Take this from "Serpico". Want to show Lucas' conflict on morality versus his job? Take the Michael Corleone baptism scene from "The Godfather". How would Frank Lucas handle family-job stress? Swipe the attempted hit on Michael Corleone from "Godfather 2". Wait, we need a scene where Frank Lucas uses racism to justify his violent, self-serving behavior. Here's a Denzel Washington speech from "Malcolm X". I'm not positive about this last one, but I think some of the action scenes came from "Starsky & Hutch".

From what homeless shelter did they dig up the "look-a-likes" of Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier and Joe Louis? Needing to round up some last-minute negroes, our casting director must've used Denzel's line in Hurricane: any one will do. Seriously, police get in big trouble when they stray this far from "the description". Where's the justice?

The I-Spy Connection

The compelling reason to see the film is the story Frank Lucas, inventor of the "Cadaver Connection". Instead, Hollywood creates another "I-Spy" connection, which turns a black protagonist story into "Adventures of the Heroic White Guy". Similar films include "Cry Freedom" (Steven Biko dies halfway through the movie) and "The Last King of Scotland" (the entire film focused on the white doctor). Following this established tradition, Richie Roberts (our Heroic White Guy) is loaded with character traits that must've come from a focus group. He's in a custody battle; the real Roberts never had kids from his first marriage. Every white broad want to bang him; the real Roberts wasn't a womanizer.

To be fair, the Hollywood Bullshit Machine didn't stop its work on the cops. Among other inaccuracies, Lucas wasn't arrested at church, holding hands with his wife surrounded by cops with Richards posing like Hackman in "The French Connection". The real Lucas was arrested at home alone after the Mafia ratted him out.

Happy Days

During one of the many cliche tsunamis, I wondered if characters from other '70s New York films and shows were in the background. As Russell Crowe drove to save his partner, did Gene Hackman's Popeye Doyle pass him at an intersection? Did Serpico get shot next door to this film's final shootout scene? Is that Jimmy "JJ" Walker shouting "dyn-o-mite" while catching a free turkey from Bumpy Johnson? Was Joe Louis portrayed by Fat Albert?

Frank Lucas

Richie Roberts

Cry Freedom (starring Denzel Washington)

"Some criticized the film for focusing more on (white) newspaper editor Woods, on whose written accounts of Biko the film was based, than on Biko himself, whose life is told in the movie mostly through his interactions with Woods." wiki

Last King of Scotland

"Instead of presenting directly the Ugandan dictator, the movie is focused on a white doctor, who's eyes are the point of view on the story and of the events the movie tells." imdb


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