Based on the true story of Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington)- a big time New York gangster cum kingpin of a drug-dealing empire and Richie Roberts (Russel Crowe)- a detective cum part-time law student sitting for his local bar exams.
Set in 1970s America with the background of the Vietnam war and the Nixon presidency, the movie begins with the death of Frank's boss, "Bumpy" Johnson. Frank was Bumpy's driver and Bumpy was very much a mentor to Frank. Just prior to his death, Bumpy lamented how America has changed as every business seemed to "cut out the middlemen" in order to bring prices down. This, Bumpy said has resulted in the middlemen losing out. Frank vows to carry on Bumpy's work.
Realizing how watered down heroin was sold at high prices, Frank goes to Vietnam in search of the pure stuff and finds it. He engaged the help of a US army officer to help him directly ship the drugs to USA using US Army aircraft. As he manages to sell the pure heroin at a much cheaper price compared to watered down versions widely sold, he quickly gains success, much to the dismay of the other drug dealers.
Richie Roberts is a clean corruption-free cop in a city full of corrupt ones receiving money from the drug syndicates. His odd-working hours and his association with shady people takes his toll on his marriage. His turning in of a US $1 million of drug money without taking one single cent for himself earned him a good cop reputation. His reputation is recognised and he is asked to head a major narcotics division in the police force.
After going through investigations in order to nail the big kahuna New York drug syndicate, he stumbles on the trail of Frank Lucas. This is where the paths of the 2 main characters of this movie cross. As Richie's investigations progress, Frank's drug business sees problems. The Vietnam war comes to an end Frank will no longer have the advantage of US Army personnel/aircraft to help him ship the heroin.
Well scripted, excellent performance by the cast and already earning nominations for the Golden Globe and the Screen Actors Guild awards, this movie is a must see. I enjoyed every moment of this crime drama and so did Julina. Watching the movie in a Malaysian cinema means many censored scenes (nudity presumably) and "absent" dialogue (presumably obscenities silenced out) but it didn't affect the understanding of the movie's plot. Violent scenes are very much intact and there are some glimpses of topless women, but then again this movie is rated 18PL, so under-18s will not be allowed into the cinema.
My rating: 4.8 over 5 stars
Message: What are you waiting for, go out and watch it! Just leave your kids at home and watch it with your spouse/significant other.