'American Gangster' Critic Reviews

96%
MovieWeb:   49 reviews
80%
Rotten Tomatoes:   209 reviews
  • Owen Gleiberman Entertainment Weekly (Top Critic)
    67
    American Gangster is meticulous and detailed, a drug-world epic that holds you from moment to moment, immersing you in the intricate and sleazy logistics of crime.
    Full Review » 6 years ago
  • Manohla Dargis New York Times (Top Critic)
    70
    Greatness hovers just outside American Gangster, knocking, angling to be let in.
    Full Review » 6 years ago
  • Peter Bradshaw Guardian [UK] (Top Critic)
    40
    Here's a startlingly original true-life story told in an oddly unoriginal way. And that attempt at instant classic status in the title doesn't quite convince. It's got no more dark grandeur than American Idol.
    Full Review » 6 years ago
  • Claudia Puig USA Today (Top Critic)
    88
    The movie, based on a true story, takes surprising twists and turns right up to its chilling ending and is probably the best gangster crime drama of the year.
    Full Review » 6 years ago
  • Stephen Hunter Washington Post (Top Critic)
    It has the aspirations of an epic of crime and punishment, a superb feel for time and milieu, and an almost subliminal feel for myth.
    Full Review » 6 years ago
  • Wesley Morris Boston Globe (Top Critic)
    63
    The entire movie is caught between being a work of seriousness and a work of absurdity.
    Full Review » 6 years ago
  • J. Hoberman Village Voice (Top Critic)
    Ambitious as American Gangster is, it's well suited to Denzel Washington's particular star quality.
    Full Review » 6 years ago
  • Jack Mathews New York Daily News (Top Critic)
    63
    This is Washington's movie as much as it is Lucas' story, and he is as entertainingly evil here as in his Oscar-winning performance as a bad cop in Training Day.
    Full Review » 6 years ago
  • Joe Morgenstern Wall Street Journal (Top Critic)
    The better it gets -- and the drama grows in power over its quasi-epic course of 157 minutes -- the more it brings to mind the truly great gangster films of American movie history.
    Full Review » 6 years ago
  • Amy Biancolli Houston Chronicle (Top Critic)
    88
    It's a much better film than nine-tenths of what's out there on any given Friday, and if you're a fan of steak-and-potatoes crime drama, I highly recommend it.
    Full Review » 6 years ago
  • Chris Vognar Dallas Morning News (Top Critic)
    92
    Ridley Scott packs the film with period detail and vivid, violent energy reminiscent of high-grade Scorsese, then mixes in a Lumet-like, keenly observed outrage at systemic corruption.
    Full Review » 6 years ago
  • Lisa Kennedy Denver Post (Top Critic)
    75
    For talent, Scott couldn't start much purer. Washington and Crowe are consummate craftsmen who burrow deep into their characters.
    Full Review » 6 years ago
  • David Edelstein New York Magazine (Top Critic)
    Their ambition is out there. But for all the sprawl, American Gangster feels secondhand. It's like Scarface drained of blood, at arm's length from the culture that spawned it.
    Full Review » 6 years ago
  • David Denby New Yorker (Top Critic)
    It's Super Fly -- which also had a drug-dealer hero -- without the cartoon cruddiness and the put-on violence and with an enormous increase of range and detail.
    Full Review » 6 years ago
  • Roger Ebert Chicago Sun-Times (Top Critic)
    100
    This is an engrossing story, told smoothly and well, and Russell Crowe's contribution is enormous.
    Full Review » 6 years ago
  • Michael Phillips Chicago Tribune (Top Critic)
    75
    While you may wish the superlatively talented cast of American Gangster had a classic to show for their efforts, a good modern gangster film is its own reward.
    Full Review » 6 years ago
  • J. R. Jones Chicago Reader (Top Critic)
    Great cast...
    Full Review » 6 years ago
  • Carrie Rickey Philadelphia Inquirer (Top Critic)
    75
    Both he [Washington] and Ruby Dee, as his mother, give Oscar-caliber performances.
    Full Review » 6 years ago
  • Colin Covert Minneapolis Star Tribune (Top Critic)
    50
    A strikingly photogenic but lethargic cops and crimelords yarn, it gives us a number of formidable talents laboring on a story that never develops the headlong momentum it needs. It's a brooding, serious character study impersonating a crime thriller.
    Full Review » 6 years ago
  • Tom Long Detroit News (Top Critic)
    34
    Every bit as generic as its title, American Gangster is a Frankenstein creature of a film, put together from the parts of other famous gangster flicks yet lacking in both the fury and wild-eyed vision the best of the genre have to offer.
    Full Review » 6 years ago
  • Bill Goodykoontz Arizona Republic (Top Critic)
    80
    American Gangster shoots for epic stature and misses, but Washington hits the mark from start to finish in one of the year's best performances, the one element that earns the larger-than-life status the rest of the film so desperately seeks.
    Full Review » 6 years ago
  • Andrew Sarris New York Observer (Top Critic)
    One must applaud American Gangster as the kind of socko entertainment many people thought Hollywood filmmakers had become incapable of. It is not to be missed.
    Full Review » 6 years ago
  • Todd McCarthy Variety (Top Critic)
    Washington's steely grip on his impersonation of Frank Lucas holds the film together.
    Full Review » 6 years ago
  • Lou Lumenick New York Post (Top Critic)
    100
    One of the year's best movies -- and surely a major Oscar contender.
    Full Review » 6 years ago
  • Roger Moore Orlando Sentinel (Top Critic)
    80
    It's not just Oscar bait for its two dazzling leading men. It's a fascinating look at the Land of Opportunity as seen through the eyes of its most amoral opportunists.
    Full Review » 6 years ago