This Week’s Netflix: Proper Villians

My recent batch of Netflix discs has been pretty poor. I guess I made some bad decisions in adding to the queue. Two were so boring I watched less than half before turning them off. Maybe they weren’t bad movies, but definitely not for me.

American Gangster – §§§ – Cops and drug dealers, it’s been fodder for lots of good movies and TV shows (and at least one great one, to wit: The Wire). Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington) is a Harlem gangster who takes over the realm of his mob boss mentor in New York during the end of the Viet Nam war. He brings along his family and generally lives the good life before it starts to unravel. Russell Crowe plays a New Jersey cop (and eventually lawyer) who ends up assigned to crack down on the drugs. Good things about the movie: 1) the performances of Crowe and Washington. They truly are entertaining and make the movie worth watching; 2) entertaining views of New York during that period; 3) a nice coda to wrap things up. Bad things: 1) There’s not much suspense about what’s going to happen, especially since it was based on a true story and once the denouement nears, things really speed up; 2) it seems unbelievable that Crowe’s character, who gets his law license during the process of the investigation, would then be tasked with leading the prosecution of Lucas in court. I haven’t checked, but I really doubt that’s the way it happened and seems a ridiculous monkey wrench to throw into the story. 3) I’ve seen the method of drug transportation the story uses in several other fictional settings before, and perhaps it was truly the method the real-life Lucas used, but it felt recycled. Still, it sets up a critical point in the film, so I suppose it works. It’s not a big problem.

The Long Good Friday – §§§§ – A London crime kingpin is setting up for the biggest deal of his career, one that will bring him legitimacy and billions of dollars, until unknown forces start making things go wrong. Added this one based on the recommendation of a mention on the filmspotting.net podcast, and it was really enjoyable. I have two minor complaints: 1) this is truly a London movie and the language and slang are often hard to follow, especially without the benefit of subtitles; 2) the film score irritated me at points, it’s very much of the 80’s. The movie is set in 1980 and it’s a great story. Lots of violence. Make sure to watch the prologue, probably the first 10 minutes or so, very closely.

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