American Gangster: The Complete First Season (2006)

|| NR - 180 minutes - $26.99 || October 23, 2007
Reviewer: Elyusha Vafaeisefat || Posted On: 2007-11-26

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.:: F I L M ::.
The Film

.: F E A T U R E S :.

Special Features

A U D I O &
.:: V I D E O ::.

Audio and Video

.:: O V E R A L L ::.
Director: NA
Writer(s): NA
Cast: Ving Rhames (narrator)

Supplemental Material:
  • Extended Interviews
  • Season 2 Sneak Peek

Technical Information:
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Full Screen (1.33)
  • English (Dolby Digital 2.0)
  • Subtitles:

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.::THE FILM::.

Narrated by actor Ving Rhames, American Gangster is an in depth look at some of the most notorious African American crime figures of the past 50 years. The show is currently in its second season and airs on B.E.T.

I had only seen snippets from the show here and there but I never quite had a chance to see an entire episode from start to finish. I must admit that the producers of the TV show do a good job in telling the stories behind all these crime figures.

American Gangster's format is quite simple. The show begins by telling how these crime figures grew up. For the most part, they all come from impoverished backgrounds. Second, the show discusses the rise of these crime figures and the actions they took to get to the top. Finally, the show covers their ultimate downfall and arrests.

The crime figures covered are Stanley "Tookie" Willaims, "Freeway" Ricky Ross, Leroy "Nicky" Barnes, Troy and Dino Smith, The Chambers Brothers, and Lorenzo "Fat Cat" Nichols. With the exception of Tookie Williams, most people have likely never heard of many of these crime figures. Leroy "Nicky" Barnes is someone that people will likely know more about thanks to Ridley Scott's film American Gangster. Cuba Gooding Jr. takes on the small role of Nicky Barnes in the film. A documentary entitled "Mr. Untouchable" was also recently released on the life of Barnes.

The show does a fine job in showing all three phases of these crime figures' lives. Interviews with journalists, screenwriters, ex-gang members, police officers and lawyers provide various perspectives regarding these crime figures. The show does take on a "documentary" format but it is important to remember that the makers of the show are trying to market to a specific audience. In short, many of the opinions of the interviewees are well, opinions and not always fact. Still, the show is quite entertaining and does a very good job of making the show watchable.

Each episode runs about 40 minutes. Here are the details from the DVD as to who is covered on each disc:


Stanley "Tookie" Williams:

Stanley "Tookie" Williams' life reads like a history of Los Angeles gang warfare. Follow this complex "gangster superstar" from cold-blooded criminal to Nobel Peace Prize nominee.

"Freeway" Ricky Ross:

Illiterate but physically gifted, "Freeway" Ricky Ross went from would-be star athlete to L.A. crack king. Witness his rise and fall in the drug trade and his shadowy connection to the U.S. government's Iran-Contra scandal.

Leroy "Nicky" Barnes:

See how drug kingpin and government "snitch" Leroy "Nicky" Barnes carved out an empire as one of the most infamous heroin pushers in Harlem during the '50s, '60s, and '70s.


Troy and Dino Smith:

Their exploits include the biggest jewel heist in San Francisco history. Explore the careers of Troy and Dino Smith as they go from teen crooks to masterminds behind some of the most sophisticated crimes in the Bay Area.

The Chambers Brothers:

Discover how four brothers known as the First Family of Crime rose from meager beginnings as the sons of Arkansas sharecroppers to forge a $50 million-a-year crack empire.

Lorenzo "Fat Cat" Nichols:

Lorenzo "Fat Cat" Nichols reigned as a drug lord over the lawless streets of Southeast Queens in the '80s - until a policeman's violent murder sparked a chain reaction that would topple him from power.


Disc one contains a 50 minute extended interview with Tookie Williams' son, Travon. The interview is worth watching for those interested in learning more about Tookie and his life. Others will likely find a tough time sitting through all 50 minutes of the interview.

Disc two contains two extras. The first is 27 minutes worth of extended interviews from all 6 segments of the show. The second extra is a 10 minute sneak preview of Season Two of American Gangster. Frank Lucas, the inspiration for Ridley Scott's film American Gangster is among the crime figures covered on the second season (which is currently airing on B.E.T.).


The video and audio transfers for the show are good enough for the filmmaking style of the show. The show is presented in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio and the audio specs are a Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo mix. I found the video transfer to be solid throughout but the bass and dialogue seemed to fade in and out on some of the interviews and segments.


I actually found the show quite interesting for the most part. The DVD package isn't as good as one would hope but those interested in seeing some interviews regarding these 6 crime figures should definitely check out the DVD. The show is presented in a very entertaining format that makes the show quite watchable.