Directed by Ridley Scott
Based on the New York Magazine article by Mark Jacobson
Screenplay by Steve Zaillian
Starring: Denzel Washington, Russell Crowe, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Josh Brolin
Detective Richie Roberts (Crowe) is working to bring down a major heroin operation. The kingpin of the drug empire is the ruthless Frank Lucas (Washington) who will stop at nothing to overpower his competition.
This film is based on the true story of drug kingpin Frank Lucas. The screenplay, by Steve Zaillian (Schindler’s List), was based on the New York Magazine article by Mark Jacobson (Love Ranch). Oscar nominee Ridley Scott (Blade Runner) directed the film. The movie stars Denzel Washington (Philadelphia), Russell Crowe (The Insider), Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave), Ruby Dee (Do The Right Thing), and Josh Brolin (Sicario).
Taking a true story and turning it into a Hollywood product takes some finesse. As with most “true stories” this one mixes fact and fiction to keep things interesting. The basis for the film is the fascinating tale of Frank Lucas’ rise and fall. The opening scenes of the film provide a number of different views on who Lucas really is. This allows many sides to his personality to play out over the film. On the other side of the story, the development of Richie Roberts character is also nicely done. His noble intentions are played nicely off of his personal failings.
The action in the film is interesting, and helps to keep the pace from slowing too much. the dialogue is good throughout this one, but sometimes feels a bit too scripted. This makes some scenes feel a bit campy. The only other weakness in the story is the broad range that the writer attempted to cover. There are dozens of important characters covered over a period of several years. While this isn’t a major problem, it does leave some loose ends. Overall, this is a solid story that brings real events to life with a Hollywood flair.
This one features a number of nice performances from a huge cast of recognizable faces. Denzel Washington leads the way with his excellent portrayal of Frank Lucas. With the length of time the film covers, Washington does an excellent job adapting his role for the moment. He also does a great job with the brutal nature of his character. Russell Crowe does a great job in his role as well. His unassuming portrayal of Richie Roberts really works as a counterbalance to Washington’s intense performance. This allows the movie to shift gears and really keep thing tense.
These two stars are joined by a number of actors who do great work. Josh Brolin, Chiwetel Ejiofor and many other actors bring nice moments to this one. For her great performance, Rudy Dee was nominated for Best Supporting Actress. With such a huge cast, it was nice to see good casting in every role.
This movie does a nice job of bringing a past era to life. The costuming, cars, sets, and locations all play into the themes and tone of the film. It’s not a surprise that this one was nominated for an Oscar for Best Art Direction. The camera work also does a good job giving this one a nice feel. Another nice touch in this film is the score. Composer Marc Streitenfeld (Killing Them Softly) brought elements of the era into the movie, as well as a few more modern touches. The music goes a long way in helping this one work. Overall, there wasn’t much to dislike about the production value of this movie.
This is a good movie that misses out on being great due to some misses in the story. While this one is still worth watching, it seems to spread itself too thin. If you’re interested in crime dramas, this is one you should see. I would definitely recommend this one to fans of any of the stars. This is a movie that has some brutality throughout, so it’s not for everyone. I give this one 4 out of 5 stars.