Harlem thug Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington) wants very much to be Somebody, and his ticket to the top is heroin, imported from Vietnam with the help of the military there and a large contingent of dirty cops here. Richie Roberts (Russell Crowe) is a street-wise cop who makes it his business to track down the man who's running this drug racket.
This was the longest 157 minutes I've ever spent in a movie theatre. One of the problems with this film was that neither the hero (Richie) nor the villain (Frank) was a sympathetic character and I didn't care how it ended (although the epilogue shocked me). Gum-chomping Richie admits he's not a fit father and has no qualms about roughing people up in the line of duty. Frank is a slick, soulless fiend with no regard for human life. To say this movie is violent would be an understatement, but after watching so much depravity and cruelty, one becomes jaded and I stopped caring altogether.
The biggest weakness was that the two stars share the screen for a only few minutes. I was waiting and waiting to see these acting titans play off each other, and when it finally happened, it was disappointing. Washington definitely out-acts Crowe in a flashier role, and for his memorable performance, I gave the movie three stars. Very much a guy-film.