In 1922, a Black woman of French descent by the name of Stephanie “Queenie” St. Clare took control of the streets by using $10,000 of her own money to start her own number bank in Harlem. When she realized she was powerless 10 years later, she decided to rely on her henchmen, Ellsworth Bumpy “The King” Johnson, and later left the business to him.Now for anybody who doesn’t know who Queenie and Bumpy Johnson are, they were the characters from the acclaimed movie Hoodlum, that was based on a true story called that starred Laurence Fishburne who portrayed Bumpy Johnson.
Thirty-eight years (1968) later Bumpy Johnson had a henchman he could depend on as well which is his driver, Frank Lucas (Academy Award Winner Denzel Washington). This basically sets the backdrop for Ridley Scott’s American Gangster.
The film starts off explaining the relationship between Bumpy Johnson & Frank Lucas. When Bumpy Johnson passed away, all of his business holdings pass to his apprentice, and Lucas takes Johnson’s business to a whole different level.
Lucas’ first step was to make a trip to Vietnam to smuggle heroin. His first trip was a success. Later he had started a heroin empire called the Country Boys which involved his family members because that is all he trusts. The members of the empire were of course Frank the oldest, Ezell, Vernon, Lee, John, Paul, Larry, and Leevan Lucas. They would gross a million dollars a day by selling heroin all over the streets of New York City, but his main base area was Harlem and Blue Magic was the most popular product that was ever to be sold in the streets.
Lucas was always on guard himself, and was never out in the public eye, nor was he ever caught for his actions. Detective Ritchie Roberts (Academy Award Winner Russell Crowe) had a very difficult time trying to catch the man behind Blue Magic. He almost lost everything until he had a lead on the man behind it all.
He investigated very aggressively by finding out how the operation works. The detective noticed that Lucas was smuggling heroin in the body bags of U.S. soldiers slain in Vietnam. Now he will do what ever it takes to bring him down.
American Gangster is a classic crime drama that shows the darkside of the streets of Harlem and all over New York City. Just watching the film and looking at the whole environment in Harlem does remind me of how the streets did look when I was a young child. T.I.’s role in the movie was well played, Common was good, as well as legendary actress Ruby Dee along with other actors that appeared in the movie. American Gangster gets 2 thumbs up! Way Up!