American gangster

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German title American gangster
Original title American gangster
Country of production United States
original language English
Publishing year 2007
length 157 minutes
Extended Version:
176 minutes
Age rating FSK 16
JMK 16
Director Ridley Scott
script Steven Zaillian
production Brian Grazer ,
Ridley Scott
music Marc Streitenfeld
camera Harris Savides
cut Pietro Scalia

American Gangster is an American thriller released in 2007 . Directed by Ridley Scott , the screenplay was written by Steven Zaillian based on an article by Mark Jacobson describing the life of drug trafficker Frank Lucas , who was active during the Vietnam War .


The African American Frank Lucas works as a driver for his mentor Ellsworth "Bumpy" Johnson , the head of a criminal organization. When he died of a heart attack in 1968 , Lucas set up his own organization. He took advantage of the growing conflict in Vietnam and obtained heroin from a corrupt Kuomintang officer from the Golden Triangle , which was smuggled into the USA in the coffins of fallen American soldiers. By bypassing the middlemen, he can sell heroin to end users in a higher quality and at a lower price than the competition. He establishes the “Blue Magic” brand for his heroin and manages to push the mafia to the wall and, at least in his own words, to make it a bit of service. He also murders with his own hands and without scruples, but is otherwise caring and generous to his family, does not surround himself with criminals, seldom goes out, values ​​decent clothing and distributes turkeys for Thanksgiving in Harlem , just like his mentor did did.

Meanwhile, in neighboring New Jersey, the notoriously incorruptible, down-to-earth but also somewhat shirt-sleeved criminal investigator and later state attorney Richie Roberts is tasked with discreetly setting up a hand-picked special unit that operates largely outside the police apparatus to track and change the drug trade in New Jersey and New York City should examine regional market structure. He himself has trouble clearing his head because of a custody lawsuit regarding his son for marital infidelity.

Roberts' unit initially has no idea who is behind the production of "Blue Magic" and how the heroin is smuggled into the country. But Roberts succeeds in photographing the unknown, new tycoon Frank Lucas in the audience for the first time in the "fight of the century" Joe Frazier versus Muhammad Ali in 1971 , when he is sitting in the VIP area in an unusual chinchilla fur coat. Roberts now focuses his investigation on Frank Lucas, but is hindered by a group of corrupt and dangerous New York police officers led by Nick Trupo. But finally Roberts is able to equip a cousin of Lucas with a listening device.

This will help them find out how and when the drugs are being smuggled into the US. They examine a military aircraft that is loaded with coffins of fallen US soldiers, among other things. However, despite a search warrant, Roberts is not allowed to open the coffins, and a senior official with the newly established Drug Control Agency tells Roberts that it is impossible for black people to build a drug ring. He also fears that the military will lose their image in view of the already critical reports in the American media about the Vietnam War.

Nevertheless, Roberts' unit manages to trace the heroin to Harlem , where the drugs are processed. In a large-scale operation in 1975, the year the Vietnam War ended, Lucas and all of his gang were arrested and tried.

After his arrest, Lucas tries in vain to bribe Roberts. After all, Lucas has no other choice and agrees to work with Roberts. He not only provides evidence against other criminals, but also and above all against corrupt police officers. It turns out that three-quarters of the police in the NYPD 's special anti-drug unit were corrupt. Lucas' prison sentence will be reduced from 70 to 15 years through his cooperation.

In 1991, Lucas was released from prison. Richie Roberts has quit his service as prosecutor and has become a criminal defense lawyer, Frank Lucas becomes his first client.

(From here only in the Extended Version :) He picks him up from prison, and the two of them pass Eighth Avenue , which once supplied Frank with heroin (now Frederick Douglass Boulevard ), and where Ellsworth "Bumpy" Johnson had his heart attack would have.

After the credits you see a scene in which Frank Lucas shoots someone. This scene does not continue the ending where Frank Lucas is released from prison. It is set at an earlier point in time and is also included in the theatrical version.


In the film, Frank Lucas was released from prison in 1991. The impression is that Lucas was continuously in custody between 1975 and 1991. In fact, the already reduced prison sentence but was after six years of probation exposed and released Lucas 1,981th However, he had to go to prison again from 1984 to 1991 after another drug offense and thus for violating the probation conditions.

There are also numerous inaccuracies pertaining to the automobiles shown in the film. For example, in some scenes that take place before 1968, Buick Rivieras with a unique Boattail can be seen, which, however, were not produced until 1971. This is just one of several cases in the film.

Robert Diggs (RZA), starring Moses Jones, can be seen with a tattoo of the logo of his hip-hop group Wu-Tang-Clan , which was only founded in 1992.


Kirk Honeycutt wrote in The Hollywood Reporter on October 22, 2007 that the film was more about the characters and their motivations than the action. He was "balanced" and "smart" enough to attract audiences beyond the fans of Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe.

Peter Travers referred to the film in Rolling Stone magazine on October 18, 2007 as "Black Scarface " and " The Godfather from Harlem". It is "exciting", based on facts and is a contender for important prizes. However, the film is long and "overstuffed" with a plot. The main character believes in American values, but the fulfillment of the dream makes them a target for the competitors; the film has a current relevance.

“[...] what Ridley Scott has put on celluloid here is phenomenal. [...] Not a minute is superfluous, never even a thought of boredom arises, [...] Savides varies his imagery to match the mood and exactly according to the intended emotional state [...]. On top of that, the pictures taken look partly dark and dirty, partly noble [...] "

- Sascha Ormanns : editing - the film magazine

Manohla Dargis found in the New York Times on November 2, 2007 that seriousness has always been one of Ridley Scotts' strengths, but he also believes that this would show him too much sympathy for his film villain.

Georg Seeßlen wrote: “Ridley Scott succeeds in combining this classic cinema constellation with a critical view of the time right down to the details of the equipment and the music quotations and a parable of ascent. He lets his Frank Lucas appear as the "right man in the right place at the right time."

The lexicon of international film judged: “The excellently staged film is hardly able to gain new thematic aspects from the subject, which has often been varied. In contrast, he convinces with the remarkable milieu drawing of the police apparatus of the 1970s, some almost magical cinematic moments and the courage to use a low-contrast camera. "


The film was nominated four times at the Satellite Awards 2007 : Best Actor and Supporting Actress in a Drama (Washington and Dee), Movie Song ( Do You Feel Me by Diane Warren ), and Editing.

At the 2008 Golden Globe Awards , the film was nominated three times in the categories of Best Picture - Drama , Best Director and Best Actor - Drama . At the 2008 Oscars , the film was nominated for two Oscars in the categories of Best Supporting Actress (Ruby Dee - Mama Lucas) and Best Production Design.

The German Film and Media Assessment FBW in Wiesbaden awarded the film the rating “particularly valuable”.


The real Frank Lucas advised the film team and was present every day of the shooting. Richie Roberts was also available to talk to on set.

The film was shot in New York City , on the Stewart International Airport in New York , in the estate Old Westbury Gardens , Long Iceland and in Thailand rotated. Its production amounted to an estimated 100 million US dollars . The world premiere was on October 19, 2007 in New York City. The widespread release began on November 2, 2007 in cinemas in the USA and in German cinemas on November 15, 2007. The film grossed around 43.6 million US dollars on the opening weekend in the USA ; greater than $ 266 million.

The film should have been shot under the direction of Antoine Fuqua back in 2004 , which was postponed a month before shooting began due to financial concerns.

In order for the film to receive the “ R-Rating ” approval in the USA , it was shortened by 18 minutes. This theatrical version, like the Extended Version that was later released on DVD, received an FSK-16 approval in Germany. The scenes only available in the extended version are only available on the DVD in English with German subtitles.


  1. Anthony Hamilton : "Do You Feel Me"
  2. Lowell Fulson : "Why Don't We Do It In The Road"
  3. John Lee Hooker : "No Shoes"
  4. Bobby Womack : "Across 110th Street"
  5. Anthony Hamilton: "Stone Cold"
  6. Sam & Dave : " Hold On, I'm Comin ' "
  7. The Staple Singers : "I'll Take You There"
  8. Public Enemy : "Can't Truss It"
  9. Hank Shocklee : "Checkin 'Up On My Baby"
  10. Hank Shocklee: "Club Jam"
  11. Hank Shocklee: "Railroad"
  12. Hank Shocklee: "Nicky Barnes"
  13. Marc Streitenfeld : "Hundred Percent Pure"
  14. Marc Streitenfeld: "Frank Lucas"

The trailer for the film included "Heart of the City (Ain't No Love)," a song by US rapper Jay-Z from his album The Blueprint (2001). Jay-Z himself released the film-inspired concept album American Gangster on the Roc-a-Fella / Island Def Jam label on November 6, 2007 .

Web links

See also

Individual evidence

  1. a b Certificate of Release for American Gangsters . Voluntary self-regulation of the film industry , September 2007 (PDF; test number: 111 345 K).
  2. Age rating for American gangsters . Youth Media Commission .
  3. See ( Weblinks )
  4. Frank Lucas Biography. In: The website. A&E Television Networks, April 27, 2017, accessed on April 1, 2018 (English): "He was released in 1981. He was arrested again in 1984 for trying to exchange an ounce of heroin"
  5. Interview with Robert Diggs on SEMTEX TV
  6. ^ Film review by Kirk Honeycutt, accessed October 29, 2007 ( Memento October 27, 2007 in the Internet Archive )
  7. ^ Film review by Peter Travers, accessed on February 23, 2011
  8. Sascha Ormanns: A flawless film pearl. In: Schnitt - the film magazine . Retrieved May 2, 2008 .
  9. Manohla Dargis : Sweet, Bloody Smell of Success. In: The New York Times . November 2, 2007, accessed May 2, 2008 .
  10. ^ Criticism by Georg Seeßlen on
  11. American gangsters. In: Lexicon of International Films . Film service , accessed March 2, 2017 .Template: LdiF / Maintenance / Access used 
  12. American gangsters . In: FBW . German Film and Media Rating (FBW), accessed on November 19, 2017 .
  13. Filming locations for American Gangsters, accessed October 29, 2007
  14. a b Box office / business for American Gangsters, accessed November 20, 2007
  15. American Gangster Premiere Dates, accessed October 29, 2007
  16. gross amount worldwide
  17. ^ Antoine Fuqua - Biography
  18. Release certificate for American Gangster - Extended Version . Voluntary self-regulation of the film industry, February 2008 (PDF; test number: 111 345 DVD).