Sunday, November 04, 2007

American Letdown

Saw American Gangster last night. Pretty lame. Not bad or horrible or unwatchable, but disappointing all the same. Like if you go on a date with your friend's kind of cute cousin that's in town and she throws up in your car; that's a bum deal. If, on the other hand, she is really funny and turns out to be a good kisser; that's a very good date. But if you somehow manage to land a date with a Victoria's Secret model and she neither vomits in your car nor is very funny but lets you kiss her but doesn't kiss you back, then the date was a letdown. I would rather go out with my friend's cousin anytime.
My long-winded metaphor is actually pretty apt, for American Gangster is very long on exposition. My favorite bit is talking about how pretty the wife is. And they kind of need to tell us she's very beautiful four or five times because the actress is nothing special to look at.
Based on a true story is not always a good thing for a film. I would have rather watched a 25th anniversary release of Scarface on the big screen last night. Staying however true to the facts they did in AG crippled the film for me. Nicholas Pileggi wrote it, and he's done well with stories adapted from real life before, namely Goodfellas. Of course that was Scorcese and this was Ridley Scott. I'm not a fan of Ridley Scott directing anything of substance. He's a surface man, great with trifles like Black Hawk Down and Blade Runner. Don't get your knickers in a twist about my calling Blade Runner a trifle. Admit it, it's a tour de force of a visual confection, but it is not a powerful story by any means.
Denzel Washington was Denzel. He's an amazing presence on the screen, but I never forget who I'm looking at. And Russell Crowe, even though he's a multi-millionaire and a reputedly arrogant prick, I still want to give him a hug and say keep trying little fella. Ruby Dee has a moment of power, but mostly serves as window dressing like the rest of the huge cast.
We saw it at Lloyd Cinemas at 10:30pm. There were a number of gangsters and wannabes in the audience. Some Portland Police were stationed in the lobby of the theater. This being liberal and progressive Portland, of course. Wouldn't want the darkies to get riled and bring a ruckus. Anyway the cheering for the particularly brutal beatings and killings was chilling.
It's because of that type of reaction coupled with the lack of artistic merit that makes me feel that not only do I wish I hadn't seen this film, I would prefer that it was never produced.
By the way, I like going to films with an urban crowd. Purple Rain was an interactive experience that puts dorky Rocky Horror midnight romps to shame. My favorite was Crouching Tiger, Hidden Tiger in downtown Brooklyn. In the end when she was walking slowly up those steep steps and the film was all quiet and solemn, someone in the audience shouted, "Why don't you just fly your ass up there, bitch?"

Signore Direttore

1 comment:

Signore Direttore said...

Correction: Steven Zaillian was the screenwriter on this. Nicholas Pillegi was an executive producer. Zaillan has written some notable scripts -- Schindler's List, Falcon and the Snowman.