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American Gangster: Two Tales, by L8wrtr

L8wrtr

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American Gangster:
Two Tales

by
L8wrtr
Basic Details:
Academy Award winner Denzel Washington. Academy Award winner Russell Crowe. Visionary director Ridley Scott. What could go wrong?

Nothing

I love American Ganster, and I love the extended cut even more. Russell is one of my favorite actors and Ridley is one of my favorite directors, and oh yeah Denzel has made a decent flick or two. For me this movie absolutely delivers with fantastic performances and a compelling story wonderfully directed. After getting the extended cut I wondered what it would like to watch each of the characters' stories on their own. As I contemplated the idea of the edit I read on on the film and learned its meandering path to production; this fanedit became a project I had to make happen.

When Ridley Scott was first presented Steven Zaillian's script which told the story of Frank Lucas and the Detective who took him down, he was intrigued and considered turning it into two films. He elected to do other projects at the time however and American Gangster toiled in development with a few false starts before it finally circled back into Scott's hands. While I greatly enjoy the film, I remember walking out of the theater feeling it was a mash of two stories which occasionally got in each other's way.

Now, in my opinion, there is really nothing wrong with American Gangster, I love the movie as is, and I enjoy the Extended Edition even more. While perhaps not on the same level as other classic, traditional gangster movies such as The Godfather, Goodfellas and so-on, American Gangster is a gripping story that melds a classic Gangster film concept, with something along the lines of the Untouchables where we see a driven cop trying to take down a crime figure. Both the protagonist and antagonist get equal treatment and screen-time so that you get both sides of the story.. the rise, and fall of the gangster as well as the struggles of the men who set out to take him down.

This edit restructures the narrative into three chapters:
1) One Good Cop: First we follow Detective Richie Roberts as he develops his team and attempts to uncover a new source of heroine plaguing New York and New Jersey. We watch resist rampant police corruption, put together a task force, follow leads and finally uncover the mastermind of the new wave of heroine plaguing NYC and New Jersey, but looking for the break that will elevate the investigation from circumstantial, to rock-solid.
2) It's Business: Next we follow the rise of Frank Lucas from enforcer, to heroine King-Pin. We watch as he builds his empire, and then slowly start to feel the pressure of sharks circling in.
3) Greed: We watch as Richie's carefully managed empire spirals out of control and the aftermath of his greed and hubris with both crooked and straight cops circling in.

The primary intent of this edit is to allow the viewer to focus on each character's story without cutting away to the other character, to watch each character as the hero of their story, and their perspective on the same basic narrative. I find that there is something interesting about being able to watch each play out with the character as hero of his own story until they crash into each other's worlds.

 
So it's officially out, but the links initially submitted to the informative and central places were bad. I have resubmitted to both, but in the mean time, if anyone is interested, please feel free to DM me until I have confirmed both locations have the proper options. Also, it's now available both via torrent and file locker.

Big thanks to @ArtisDead for helping me on verifying and making this available, and to @thecuddlyninja for his art! (for some reason the listing shows L8wrtr as the artist but that couldn't be further from the truth, this was cuddly's work!
 
@SIUse thank you for the review!

I debated whether to start with Richie or Frank's story and one of my concerns was that starting with the cop who ends up on the hunt would then influence our perception of Frank, but ultimately this was the structure that was the most effective due to two key elements, one of which you commented on: Richie's photograph of Frank at the boxing match, the other being the story element that is used to break into the second chapter.

The photograph is what changes everything for Richie, until this point he is flailing, unable to put the puzzle together because he's missing the key piece (he in fact unknowingly gets a picture of Frank but because of his array of careful disguises) but once he catches a glimpse of the flashy guy at the match, Richie has his White Whale which then directly leads him to getting his 'in' on the case which I use as the break to the second chapter.

As far as the video quality, I do still plan on releasing a BD version of this where I can include a commentary track, so I'll definitely address the bit-rate there.

Back when I first worked on this I toyed with a massive release that included THREE versions of the edit which actually would have mimicked Ridley's initial plans; a Richie version that's Chapters 1 and 3, Frank's version of 2 and 3, and then this full, main edit, but I felt this would really water down the impact of the intended final product of their combined story (plus if you watched the first two versions the final chapter is exactly the same so you end up watching it twice).

Anyhow, thank you for the review!

Denzel Washington GIF
 
@SIUse thank you for the review!

I debated whether to start with Richie or Frank's story and one of my concerns was that starting with the cop who ends up on the hunt would then influence our perception of Frank, but ultimately this was the structure that was the most effective due to two key elements, one of which you commented on: Richie's photograph of Frank at the boxing match, the other being the story element that is used to break into the second chapter.
You did the right thing. Putting Richie after Frank would kind of feel like telling the audience "No, no, no, you were wrong about that guy, look at the damage he did". Having Richie first allows us to already know about the damage and better appreciate the complex, contradictory nature of Frank.
 
@L8wrtr i appreciate it, that you take the time to respond to the reviews for this edit :)
I agree with you completly regarding the structure. The coice you made, is the one which makes the most sense, despite my "Gedankenspiel" (i struggled to find a english equivalent) to tell Franks story first. The lack of seeing Frank as a indiviual subject and neutral, neither good or bad, i blame my profession for that :D

Great to hear you´ll release a bd-esque version :9 Looking forward to it. By the way, did you changed the AR of the movie?
Your edit is definitely now my original version of this movie!
 
@SIUse "Gedankenspiel" good word! (thanks google translate) and yeah, that seems appropriate. I did not modify the AR. I'm guessing you're in law enforcement of some kind?

It's funny @Dwight Fry my initial response that I re-wrote a few times originally included something along the lines of "...besides, at the end of the day Frank was a heroine dealer and merchant of death, and no amount of complexity, no charm, professionalism, personal ethics or nuance could change the fact that he was still a gangster who killed untold numbers of people and lead his family into ruin..."
 
@SIUse "Gedankenspiel" good word! (thanks google translate) and yeah, that seems appropriate. I did not modify the AR. I'm guessing you're in law enforcement of some kind?

It's funny @Dwight Fry my initial response that I re-wrote a few times originally included something along the lines of "...besides, at the end of the day Frank was a heroine dealer and merchant of death, and no amount of complexity, no charm, professionalism, personal ethics or nuance could change the fact that he was still a gangster who killed untold numbers of people and lead his family into ruin..."
I forgot that the AR of the original movie is different to the standard cinemascope^^ Yes, former law enforcement officer, now studying law.

What a relief you had chosen to drop your initial response, it would´ve been a explanation which wouldn´t be necessary.
 
WOW.

My man, @ArtisDead thank you for that beyond incredible review, it might have made me blush. I'm beyond over-the-moon at the responses so far and how much people have enjoyed watching Frank and Richie's stories.

Is Frank a hero?

It is certainly tempting to try and make an argument that there is a complex shades of gray answer full of nuance, after all, as portrayed on screen Frank is a sophisticated, charming, charismatic leader with a personal code of conduct and disdain for people of ignroance, people who are boorish and sloppy and inconsiderate.. he is in a word.. likable.. and the only people that we ever see him personally assault are people that have it coming to them, that we as an audience *want* to see get their comeuppance (except possibly the very first guy we watch him murder, we are left to assume he deserved).

And of course, Richie is not an angel. A cheating, womanizer and absentee father, nor is he refined or charming and lives in squallor, his list of flaws are extensive and not trivial.

But is Frank a HERO?

No.

I grew up a sucker for pure heroes; Luke Skywalker, Superman, Wonder Woman, Steve Austin, Dan Holland (I'll wait while you look that one up) and the like, characters who's empathy, resolve and moral compass were hardwired to goodness, as well as some more nuanced or complex heroes like Captain Kirk, James Bond, Indiana Jones, Han Solo..

A hero can be flawed, horribly flawed, and in fact, the most fascinating and compelling heroes are often the ones with flaws.. but one thing all heroes have is the ability to help others, to set aside their own self-serving needs and make the world better for someone else, for no other reason than it's the right thing to do. A no-strings bargain. The reward is in the deed.

Whatever Frank Lucas does, he does for himself. He does it because it benefits himself, and damn anyone else not smart enough to look out for themselves. Is Frank to blame for his twisted view? Well there we can have our nuanced conversation, born into poverty and brutal oppression, we can debate what his choices were, and what choices were made for him, but at the end of the day, Frank Lucas represents nobody but Frank Lucas.

Denzel Washington Movie GIF
 
Whatever Frank Lucas does, he does for himself. He does it because it benefits himself, and damn anyone else not smart enough to look out for themselves. Is Frank to blame for his twisted view? Well there we can have our nuanced conversation, born into poverty and brutal oppression, we can debate what his choices were, and what choices were made for him, but at the end of the day, Frank Lucas represents nobody but Frank Lucas.
I see it as a bit more complicated than that. He is the product of a very white-dominant society, and marginalized communities often resort to questionable (or worse) things out of both necessity and desire to improve overall life conditions. Yes, Frank is very, VERY far from a role model, and is to a point selfish, but I do also think he believes he is making a real difference for the black community. A saint he is absolutely not, but he's not 100% about himself either.
 
I agree with L8wrtr.

There are other ways to help any communities of peoples that have been marginalized or impoverished without resorting to violence or crime. No one who commits a crime, or more specifically, murders people to further propel their selfish agenda or endangers the lives of people while profiting from it can claim to be a hero. Nor should they be viewed as one. In many ways, Frank did do some good things for his community, people and in some ways, his family. But at what cost?

In fact, the only truly admirable thing Frank did was help Ritchie bring down a bunch of crooked cops. In that sense...he may be a hero.

Hollywood never tells the full story while glossing the real truth to make a dollar.

That said, Ritchie was no hero either, even if he did get the bad guy, bring him to justice, enlist his help in getting more bad guys, etc.
Ritchie may have been an exemplary cop with steadfast morals in that regard, especially in his vendetta against dirty cops. But...at what cost?

L8wrtr is the only hero in this story because he made the movie into an awesome edit and gave us a taste of what's to come.

My Man! 😁😉
 
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...i would addd to that, perhaps he´s mirrioring the general citizien: who does care for himself and his loved ones, anything beyond this, matters less and ultimately he got drunk on his influence and power like the majorty of people would.
 
Actually i don´t know if would, it´s to hypothetic for me personally. I´ve been in a minor power role in my life and still tried to meet every person at eye level as long as it was mutual. But we´re derailing here :D
I was being facetious. 🤣
 
I just wanted to state my admiration for your edit again as i saw it tonight a second time, just wonderful work that deserves some more attention :)

Btw: how far are you regarding the blu-ray encode?
 
I just wanted to state my admiration for your edit again as i saw it tonight a second time, just wonderful work that deserves some more attention :)

Btw: how far are you regarding the blu-ray encode?
Thank you!! I’m glad that it holds up and inspires a rewatch! I think it’s become my wife’s 2nd favorite of my edits after the Hobbit.

The BD is slow as I’m focusing on a pet project that demands a BD release due to multiple audio options that it will require, and I’m using a new (to me) process for making BD’s.
 
Review left @ IFDB:

I'm a huge fan of removing extraneous elements from gangster films. Years ago, I tried to edit American Gangster to remove the police angle and focus on Frank. Every which way I tried, I couldn't get it to play in a way that I liked it. I even tried something similar to what L8wrtr pulled off here and failed miserably. What I didn't realize is that this film didn't need to be excised, it needed to be restructured.

Narratively, this edit is flat-out brilliant. Presenting one story, then the other, then connecting them right where L8wrtr did was perfect. It almost has a Tarantino-esque quality to it. The editing is flawless. I know just how tough this film is to edit and to see scenes and transitions I agonized over pulled off with an invisible hand shows you just how great L8wrtr is at this.

Technically, there were a couple of issues. This film has a wonderful 5.1 mix that was thankfully preserved in the edit, but there are a number of audio glitches in the LR and RR channels that pop up during the film. It is quite obvious at approximately 5:15, 17:40, 29:00 and another dozen or so spots throughout the film. It is enough to be annoying and really should have been corrected before release. The other issue is that, while the picture itself is great, the framing is off. The top and bottom black bars are very thin and the bottom bar is about twice the width of the top bar. It's one of those things where once you see it, you can't not see it.

But with that said, these issues do not detract from the the overall enjoyment. This edit improves on the original tenfold. Any fans of the genre should rush to watch this.

American Gangster was a good gangster movie. American Gangster: Two Tales is a great gangster movie.
 
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