The Redheaded Kid arranged a private screening of American Gangster for us last night. I meant not to watch it, but I got sucked in.
Now, I’ve read a few reviews of this movie, but none of them have pointed out what’s going to be apparent to anyone who watches HBO. This movie is a total retread of The Wire, if McNulty were looking to be a lawyer and if Avon and Stringer Bell were the same character and they/he lived and flipped on everyone they/he worked with.
So similar to McNulty is Crowe’s character that when one of the corrupt detectives called him a “kike,” my very first thought was “Did I miss the episode where they explained when the Irish cop took up Judaism?”
It’s not just the incredibly handsome, charismatic black gangster v. the promiscuous cop who goes against the grain of police culture. It’s what we see in scenes–the board with all the faces on it; the sense that there’s someone high up in the organization that the cops can’t quite put a finger on; the browns and dark shadows of a corrupt, dying city; the expert use of music.
But, more importantly, it’s how, in looking to make sure this is the movie version of everyone’s favorite story-arc of The Wire, the movie makers miss out on what could have been a very interesting movie–the one in which Crowe’s character gets Washington’s character to flip, which he does, which leads to Crowe’s character eventually becoming Washington’s character’s lawyer.
Right now, that part of the movie takes no time. And yet, that’s where all the new ground is. I mean, you wonder, what is it about Washington’s character that appeals to Crowe’s character (sorry, Washington’s character is named ‘Frank’ but I’ll be damned if I can remember what Crowe’s character is called)? I know why McNulty is fascinated by Barksdale and Bell, but I should not have to extrapolate from a tv show not at all related to this movie the motivations for characters. And did Crowe’s character view his defense of Washington’s character as part of his efforts to be an upright guy? If so, what is it about defending a gangster that is upright? Is Washington redeemed? If so, why? Did he feel uneasy about his life as a gangster in the first place?
Anyway, I just felt like all the interesting stuff, that we haven’t seen done better by The Wire, stuff that could really showcase Washington and Crowe’s talents, was just glossed right over.
It was a fine movie and thought-provoking, but I wouldn’t pay money to see it when that money could be going to buy DVDs of The Wire.