Monday, November 19, 2007

An American Film Review

It is said there are two rules for Hollywood success as a director.

Rule one is that you do not employ Madonna as an actress (obviously none of my readers would have the bad taste to watch one of her flicks, but suffice to say they're all shite). Rule two is that you put the word "American" in the title.

I can't think of a film that falls foul of the second rule. Is there a bad film whose title features the word "American"? It's some roll of honour: American Beauty, American Pie, An American in Paris, American Psycho, American Gigolo, An American Tail 2: Fievel Goes West. Each of them is brilliant in its way.

Thus we come to the latest addition to this line, Ridley Scott's new film, "American Gangster", which I saw this afternoon. It keeps strictly to the two rules, being set before Madonna's emergence as a star so neither she nor her music is present, as well as obviously featuring the "A" word. And the positive news is that the film is very good indeed. When Scott is on form, there are few better "big" film directors in the world, and this latest addition to his canon follows firmly in the tradition of Alien, Blade Runner and Gladiator.

The plot follows the true story fortunes of the aforementioned gangster, Frank Lucas, played by Denzel Washington, and his nemesis, good cop Richie Roberts (Russell Crowe). Both leads are extremely good, as one would hope from perhaps the biggest stars in Hollywood today. The last Crowe film I saw was "The 3.10 to Yuma", where he was the villain, a black-hearted piece of work. This time around, he's the purest, most incorruptible policeman you can imagine, working the mean, drug-riddled streets of New Jersey - Dixon of Dock Green meets the Beastie Boys' Sabotage video. Washington is equally excellent as Lucas, the black mob boss who outdoes the Mafia at their own game. In fact I reckon both could be up for a second gold statuette come the end of February.

American Gangster captures wonderfully the shadowy world of 1970s New York, reminding you of in turns of The French Connection, The Godfather, Midnight Cowboy and any number of other similar movies. I'd recommend it to anyone who's ever bought heroin and wondered where it came from, or anyone looking to spend a few hours out of the cold this winter.

p.s. Madonna has tried to claim "American" for herself, with the dreadful cover of Don McClean's classic, American Pie, but only succeeded in ruining a great song in a way few could ever have conceived of. Silly woman.

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The Saga Begins. Not exactly a cover of American Pie, but an awesome parody version all the same. Good old Weird Al.

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