Some professionals make money the old fashioned way. Frank Lucas did it the Wal*Mart way.
Cutting out the middle man, Lucas (played by Denzel Washington) recognized that bringing pure heroin into the U.S. straight from an Asian source and dealing the "blue magic" himself would add up to millions. And he was right; in less than five years Lucas became a wealthy man, responsible for, by some estimates, 70% of the heroin in New York.
Ritchie Roberts, (played by Russell Crowe) the dogged police detective-turned-prosecutor eventually sets his sites on Lucas, and brings him to justice. The investigation is lengthy and dangerous, and uncovers deep rooted problems within police departments in New York and New Jersey.
Washington and Crow are remarkable in their roles. They share only two scenes together, but the 10 minutes or so they are on camera together is well worth the wait. The story is well told, with attention paid to the development of each role. With Gangster, the motivation of each character is integral, and the audience is given clear and detailed insight into what makes the central figures tick.
American Gangster isn't always easy to watch. The violence isn't gratuitous, but it's real. Most interesting, though, is that the fictional story may not be as interesting as the real-life relationship between the big-time drug dealer and the cop who brought him down.
Real life sometimes is stranger than fiction.