American Gangster: Unrated Extended Edition
Director Ridley Scott's take on the true-life tale of Harlem heroin-kingpin Frank Lucas didn't need to be 18 minutes longer; sounds more like a threat than a selling point, though the theatrical take's available here as well. The movie plays in either state like a cross between Super Fly (or Scarface) and Munich, with Denzel Washington as the high-livin', mother-lovin' dope dealer and Russell Crowe as the rumpled supercopper, ringleading other officers charged with taking down Lucas and his killer kinfolk. Occasionally thrilling but also TV-show familiar, American Gangster's a flashy procedural as tragic epic — and Scott's damned proud of his accomplishment, down to the detail of the period garb, as evidenced in the lengthy making-of starring the real-life Lucas as his own sorta-repentant self. (RW)
Here in America, the Mafia is dead in both fact and fiction: The Sopranos are finished, and RICO beat the New York boys like a goombah on a snitch. But in Palermo, it's the prosecutors who took the hit, as this poorly made but fascinating documentary illustrates. Covering the brave battles and tragic end of an anti-mob lawyer in Sicily, Excellent Cadavers is grim, full of grainy footage of streets strewn with corpses and interviews with marked men. Bad news is, the film's based on a book and narrated by its author, who reads with all the brio of Laurence Olivier (post-death). A note to journalists and documentary-makers: Unless your name is Hunter S. Thompson, you aren't the story. Get out of the way, and hire an old British guy to read the narration. (JH)
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