Can the newest gangster movie live up to its genre?

Aaron Helfferich and Aaron Helfferich

The gangster film has long been a benchmark on Hollywood cinema. At the same time, they can either be an unparalleled tale or a rehashed stereotype. Out of the ones that have made a lasting impact, Hollywood has seen films like “The Godfather,” “Scarface,” and more recently “The Departed.” The newest film to enter this lot desperately attempts to attain the quality of these films. “American Gangster” already has the qualities of true Hollywood magic, but is it able to put them to the fullest use without being redundant?

Starring Denzel Washington as this story’s mob boss and Russel Crowe as the narcotics officer ordered to take him down, “American Gangster” has a contemporary epic storyline that is so prevalent in films like this. Set in the 1970s along the backdrop of New York, the story of the drug empire of Frank Lucas (Washington) has taken off on the heels of an age old format.

What keeps this “Gangster” from becoming too clich’eacute; is director Ridley Scott’s absorbing storybook take. Here, Scott has focused so much of his content on the characters that the story seems to tell itself. Themes of doing what is right when it involves family is something that incorporates and creatively connects both of our main characters. In this case, we see “American Gangster” isn’t just a throwback action flick. Washington and Crowe deliver equally penetrating performances.

“American Gangster” may not be this year’s “The Departed” nor does it have the ability to be as legendary as “The Godfather.” Still, it gives audiences a taste of that high class entertainment we have been waiting for all year. With an impressive talent for gritty edge-of-your-seat action and dramatic storytelling, here is the first glance of the year at a proven Oscar candidate.

Three and a half stars out of four