The term "Based on a true story" seems to be thrown out there a lot now in Hollywood movies. And the guidelines for what the term means has spread. You can pretty much take a small portion of the true story and build a whole new story to fit the entertainment standard of Hollywood.
That is what's happening to a lot of movies nowadays and American Gangster is no exception.
In this based on a true story movie Denzel plays a smooth criminal mastermind named Frank Lucas who built a huge money making empire on drugs, his product? Blue Magic...which is? 100% pure cocaine, imported from Vietnam. In this story it depicts Frank Lucas as a drug dealer who's street smarts helped him get connections to bypass the middle men and get cocaine pure from the source itself (Vietnam). And his ingenious plan of shipping the drugs into the US in the coffins of fallen US soldiers in the Vietnam war. But in the end he was brought down by a determined cop (Russell Crowe) but being the ideal gangster he never turned a single gangster in only all the crooked cops on his and others payroll. Smooth gangster right? 100% true? Not even close.
Frank Lucas was no smooth dressing, talking, fair gangster, so says Nicky Barnes. Also known as Mr. Untouchable, played by Cuba Gooding Jr. in American Gangster. Nicky Barnes was also a notorious "American Gangster". He actually made more money than Frank Lucas did, with his drug empire. He was Franks competitor.
Recently on the Howard Stern show, Nicky (who is in the witness protection program) told all. About how the producers including Crowe wanted to glorify a gangster. They didn't like Nicky much so they decided to glorify Frank. He also went on to tell how Frank wasn't really the smooth criminal he was in the movie. In fact Barnes told Howard that Frank was kinda dumb and wasn't really street smart. Was definitely not smooth like Denzel in the movie. And the truth about Franks drugs were exaggerated enormously in the movie.
After hearing Barnes on the Stern show I was highly disappointed in the movie. Because before that, I thought it was one of the best gangster stories ever made. I mean it still is a great story but finding out the truth and reading about it just makes the story seem so fake. Now when I see parts I'm like "That didn't happen that way." Or "He didn't do that in real life." But I guess that's what "based on" means.
I still give the movie 4 out of 4 stars. I recommend you not read up about the truth before watching the movie. Might ruin it for you.