For the Indian audience, this movie is sort of a parallel (but AG is an infinitely better movie) to Manirathnam's Guru. There are two characters - one who rises in business through illegal means and is very successful and another who is a honest person bent upon bringing the other guy down. Only that in this movie the opponent/challenger is more a busy bee sort of person. Less interested in showing how cold/ruthless he is, but more professional in the way he goes about his business. Richie Roberts played by Russell Crowe is a police officer who finds a million dollars in unmarked bills lying in an abandoned car and actually has the guts to turn it in. Oddly among all super-cop qualities, a dull and drab 'Honesty' is his calling card. That surprises people because honesty is so passe. No cop can believe it. They all stare at him as if he committed a murder. And this fact is presented to us so elegantly. Roberts shrugs off his image and does not answer back when people constantly ask him if that was true. Even here, note that Lucas is different when he confronts Roberts. Lucas asks him "but would you do it again?". Lucas sees an angle when nobody thinks an angle exists. He doesn't point his gun and pose, he shoots nonchalantly. He does it with minimum fuss and resumes a family conversation. Denzel Washington plays Lucas as if he were a model from GQ, with customary style and ruthlessness.
Ridley Scott teams up yet again with Russell Crowe and gives us a movie with a distinct look and feel to it. The movie has like dusty grey denim 60s style tone to it. The costumes, glasses, talk and walk all ooze class. Its unlike any style Ridley Scott has thrown at us before. The movie starts by alternating between Lucas and Roberts. The initial sequences will not make much sense - as seemingly random unconnected events are thrown at us. Roberts' narrative sequence seems similar to Gyllenhall's search for the Zodiac killer in the movie Zodiac. Frank Lucas's story is told in a 'Harlem meets Godfather' fashion. The story obviously covers a long timeline in their lives and so moves rapidly by touching just the highlights
However, there are these garden vegetable wife characters in both the Roberts' and Frank's lives, who are seriously very annoying. I saw it in Zodiac and many other movies and never thought such a character added value. A woman who is conflicted between an obsessive compulsive/law violating/ immoral husband and her own quest for a peaceful life with someone dedicated to her. Most successful men, upon whom other men look up to, aren't those romantic TV advertisement type wife pleasers who buy huggies Teddy Bear everyday and hang around their wife all day. This movie does not talk about such chocolate boys. So I don't understand the need for such women characters in this movie. Regardless of whether such women existed in the character's real life or not - it almost seems unnecessary to include such stereotypical women who ask "choose between your career and spending quality time with me" . This blemish apart this movie lives up to very high standards.
While this movie narrates a true story, I suspect, much like Guru, it adds its own cinematic license and exaggerates certain aspects of the story. However, the narration of the means through which drugs are transported to the US is no exaggeration. In a way, the sequence where Roberts begins to unwrap the body bags of dead US marines alone is testament to the ambition of this movie, the character of Roberts and the capitalistic outlook of George Lucas. A few days after watching this movie, I am still wondering about the way Lucas emphasizes the value of underplaying, keeping a low-profile, and discipline to his brother. They don't listen. Only he gets it.