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PHOTOGRAPHY

AMERICAN GANGSTER 3-Disc Collector's Edition
DVD Review by David Blackwell

DETAILS: 158 minutes (R version)/ 177 minutes (extended cut), audio commentary, deleted scenes, making of documentary, featurettes, music videos, theatrical trailer, didgital copy of unrated extended cut
VIDEO: 1.85:1 (Anamorphic Widescreen)
AUDIO: English 5.1, French 5.1 Dolby Digital (R version only), English 2.0 DD (extras)
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish (no subs for audio commentary)

STUDIO: Universal Pictures/ Imagine Entertainment/ ScottFree
RELEASE DATE: 2-19-2008

Movie Review:
Director Ridley Scott has been known for many intelligent films and even some very visual ones. He has been responsible for such masterpieces as ALIEN, BLADE RUNNER, BLACK RAIN, GLADIATOR, and KINGDOM OF HEAVEN (see the director's cut). AMERICAN GANGSTER marks his third collaboration with actor Russell Crowe (currently they are working on a fourth film together) and his first with Denzel Washington (who has worked with Ridley's brother, director Tony Scott, three times).

AMERICAN GANGSTER is based on a true story about black crime boss Frank Lucas (Washington) and cop Reggie Roberts (Crowe) out to bring him down. Their stories are told on different tracks only to collide later in the film. You see how people respect Lucas while others want to destroy him for upsetting the balance of power or causing harm to so many. Reggie Roberts becomes isolated after he turns in $1 million froma bookie's car. He is given a second chance when he is asked to form a drug taskforce. AMERICAN GANGSTER follows and dvelops each character to the very end. AMERICAN GANGSTER is a fantastic take on a small bit of history.

Lucas was smart drug kingpin. He saw an opening to import pure cocaine and heroin from Vietnam during the Vietnam War. He sold it for cheaper and called it Blue Magic. He brought in his family to help run the business. One of his failings was he didn't know when to quit when he was ahead. Reggie Roberts was just as flawed as Lucas. He had a failed marriage and slept around. He did improve himself by passing the New Jersey bar exam. He goes from cop to lawyer during the film. He does lie to himself like Lucas lies to himself. They see themselves as better people than their rivals. In the end, Lucas might have a point. He and Roberts are more alike than they want to admit. AMERICAN GANGSTER is a great character study and a showcase for actors. One critic think Lucas is too controlled and made out to be an icon. However, Lucas was respected and feared. He hung out with the stars and gave back to the area where he was taught by his mentor. His big failing wa she let pride get in the way just like Roberts struggled to be a better cop wanting to be a lawyer. AMERICAN GANGSTER shines and I hope it gets many awards for one of the best pictures of 2007.

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES:
DISC 1- The unrated extended cut has 18 extra minutes including an alternate ending that goes farther than the theatrical ending. Also on the disc is an audio commentary (for the theatrical cut) with director Ridley Scott and screenwriter Steve Zaillian.

DISC 2-
FALLEN EMPIRE: MAKING AMERICAN GANGSTER is another well produced and detailed making of documentary from DVD Producer Charles deLauzirika. It wastes no time and tackles various apsects of the production in 78 minutes.
TRU BLU: THE REAL STORY- The real story that inspired the film (the real Frank Lucas and Richie Roberts are interviewed) and the long development process (learn about a version of the film that was shut down four weeks before principal photography).
KILLER THREADS: COSTUMES- a look at gathering the 1970s costumes used in the film
CRIME WAR: PRODUCTION- a behind-the-scenes look at the production from filming in many loactions in New York to five days they spent filming in Thailand.
INTO THE ARENA: ALI VS. FRAZER- see all the prep work that went into making this pivotal scene (including fake people to fill the crowd and hiring celeb lookalikes).
RHYTHM OF THE STREETS: SOUND, MUSIC AND EDITING - a look at how the film's music was made including on camera music, Also it goes into how the film was edited early on edited with music and sound. Russell's scenes were filmed first due to scheduling conflicts.

CASE FILES take a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at how Ridley Scott works ona film froma script metting with Richie Roberts and screenwriter Steve Zaillian, getting info from a New York detective ona drug reagent process to show how pure Blue Magic is compared to other heroin, and how he directs the climatic takedown scenes.

Two Deleted scenes show an interesting alternate opening not as good as the final one and Frank's wedding scene.

DISC 3- The only extras that add material not on disc two are the Dateline NBC special (AMERICAN GANGSTER FIRST LOOK) and the film's original theatrical trailer. The two music videos, the BET Special on AMERICAN GANGSTER (talking head interviews and many film clips), and HIP HOP INFUSION (Common, RZA, and Tip "T.I" Harris talk about their roles in the film) can be skipped. Also you can unlock a digital copy of the extended cut which you can play on your computer via Windows Media Player 10.

The three disc CE is in a nice case which includes a 32 page booklet with photos and production notes. A ribbon in the case means it is very easy to lift the three 3-disc case out of the book. Also you have instructions to unlock the digital copy of the film.

FINAL ANALYSIS: The 3 disc Collector's Edition is another great Ridely Scott DVD presentation for a great film. The only downside is the amount of fluff on disc 3. So most fans of the film might not to buy the two disc unless they need the booklet, the theatrical trailer, and a digital copy of the film.

this DVD review is (c)2-16-2008 David Blackwell and cannot be reprinted without permission. send all comments to lord_pragmagtic@hotmail.com  



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