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January 18, 2008

Almost Nothing In American Gangster Is Real

— Posted by John Campea

Let’s get this part out of the way first. I really enjoyed “American Gangster“. It thought it was a terrific film with a wonderful cast and I was personally bound to the screen the whole time it was on. It’s a great movie and deserve the awards attention its been getting. Having said that…

The film is supposed to be “based on a true story” around the events in the life of gangster Frank Lucas. But its coming out that much, if not most, of the movie is totally untrue and fabricated. The Associated Press give us this:

In “American Gangster,” which is “based on a true story,” Denzel Washington — as the `70s drug lord Frank Lucas — confidently marches deep into the jungles of Southeast Asia as the Vietnam War rages in the background. He is looking for drugs. Later, we see police break open the caskets of Vietnam casualties flown back to the States, searching for the heroin Lucas has audaciously hidden beneath the corpses. Then Lucas is shown as the dope dealer-turned-reformer as he exposes legions of corrupt police.

Except none of the above ever happened.

The story goes on to tell how actual prosecutors and cops who were involved in the Frank Lucas case are contradicting just about everything in the movie and some are even filing lawsuits against Universal Pictures for misrepresenting them and their colleagues.

The question I have is this:

If you find out that a “Based on a true story” movie is actually radically inaqurate (not just the odd creative liberty here and there), does that effect if you enjoy the movie or not…. or… are you just able to appreciate the film anyway regardless if it’s true or not?

Personally, I’m a little torn over that one. Most movies are fiction anyway, so the question is moot most of the time. When I sat down to watch American Gangster, I wasn’t looking for a history lesson, I was looking to be entertained by a film… and it accomplished that. So on that level I have n complaints.

However… I can certainly see things from the point of view of others who may be involved in the events the movie supposedly retells. So what do YOU think? Does this little scandal effect your enjoyment of American Gangster? If you haven’t seen it, will this influence if you end up seeing it or not?

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  • Ngoo Nam

    Would have been better if they had removed the “based on true story” gimmick and changed the names.

    They should have emulated Mario Puzo’s and Francis Ford Coppola’s strategy on book/film marketing.

    Still, despite the facts, or lack thereof, American Gangster is entertaining.

    Denzel, Russel, Cuba, Ted, Armand, et al were good.

    And Lyman, what can you say, always awesome!

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