Denzel Washington Month #3: American Gangster, Flight

AMERICAN GANGSTER

Movie Review

The plot of the movie centers on Frank Lucas, a Harlem heroin dealer who inherits his drug empire after his boss Bumpy Johnson succumbs to cardiac arrest. Denzel Washington portrays Frank Lucas as a shrewd drug business dealer, who soon puts the entire of Harlem under his influence. His activities come to the attention of the incorruptible police detective Richie Roberts (played by Russell Crowe). Richie is able to track the source of Lucas’ “Blue Magic” heroin to South East Asia, and in due course he arrests the mobster. However, Lucas cuts a deal with the detective by agreeing to expose the rot in the police department, and he serves only 15 of his 70 year jail sentence.

As the director, Ridley Scott has done a great job in telling this story on crime and pursuit for justice. To accomplish this, he brings together a galaxy of characters; the likes of Chiwetel Ejiofor as Huey Lucas, Lymari Nada as Eva, Josh Brolin as Detective Trupo , Ric Young as the Chinese general, amongst others.

The strength of the movie hinges on the two main characters: Frank Lucas and Richie Roberts. Without them the movie would lose its appeal. What is even more amazing is that each tells a parallel story that is yet complementary. Denzel Washington’s portrayal of the mobster is commendable. He comes out as a natural, and it calls for a straight detective of the ilk of Richie Roberts to bring him to book.

The ambience brought about by the choice locations lends the movie credence as a genuine portrayal of the urban life in New York in the 1970s. It is obvious that a lot of talent went to sound and visual effects, because the movie does not disappoint in these areas.

However, some characters are not fully developed, and their presence is not fully appreciated. For instance, Richie Robert’s wife (Carla Gugino) does not add any value to the movie.

At 157 minutes, the American Gangster is good value for money, easily rated at 85%.

FLIGHT

Movie Review

In this mystery thriller directed by Robert Zemeckis, Denzel Washington stars as William ‘Whip’ Whitaker, an alcoholic pilot who has so far had a clean flight record. Disaster strikes midair when his plane loses control due to a mechanical fault. Although Whitaker ingeniously manages to crash-land the plane with only six lives lost, the inquiry that follows puts the pilot’s life in a spin. Did his drinking contribute to the accident or does the blame lie elsewhere?

Robert Zemeckis ably tells this story by putting together a team of talented artists. Don Cheadle plays Hugh Lang, Ken Evans is played by Brian Geraghty and Kelly Reilly acts as Nicole. Others include Bruce Greenwood as Charlie Anderson, Mellissa Leo as Ellen Block, and Tamara Tunie as Margaret Thomason, amongst others.

The movie gives a real life quality portrayal of the life of a drunk pilot – one who imbibes so hard that he practically blacks out and has to be supported up to prevent him from chocking on his own vomit. Denzel plays this part superbly. The depiction of the accident is also captivating –the flailing bodies, the screams from the passengers and the actual crash. It is so real that it may confine some people to roads for fear of flying.

The great scene from Flight sets Zemeckis as a great movie maker, and makes Washington live up to his reputation as a great actor.

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