Who's in It:
Denzel Washington, Russell Crowe, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Josh Brolin, Lymari Nadal, Roger Guenvere Smith, RZA,
Ruby Dee, Carlo Gugino, Cuba Gooding Jr., Armand Assante, Idris Elba, Common, T.I.
The Basics: Washington is the bad guy, a Harlem version of Tony Montana. Crowe is the good guy, a more luggish, less disguise-dependent Serpico. And they're together but apart, as their two stories move on parallel tracks and the movie slow-boils itself to a finale when they finally meet for movie justice to be meted out.
What's the Deal? You've seen it all before. But that's not necessarily a deal breaker. Just because someone wants to tell you a story you've already heard doesn't mean that person won't tell it in a way that totally entertains you, even when it take two hours and 40 minutes to do that. It keeps itself moving, the rise-of-black-underground-capitalism story is entertaining, Ruby Dee has one great scene, Josh Brolin oozes gross corrupt-cop badness, several dozen character actors get the work they need, and, in spite of a title that really wants to be iconic and definitive, you'll have a good time if you're not expecting it to be The Godfather.
Points To: Both Washington and Crowe for not showboating, mostly because they don't act opposite each other for over 95 percent of the film, and no alpha-dog dominance has to be established. If this were any other movie, I have the feeling it would turn into Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Who Benefits the Most: Cuba Gooding Jr. He's got a small role, but at least it's not in a sequel to Daddy Day Care or featuring one talking dog or revolving around mistaken identities on a gay cruise.
How You Know This Is a "Guy" Movie: The creative team managed to include lots of naked ladies and make them sort of plot-necessary.