Ridley Scott and Steven Zaillian's sprawling account of real-life Harlem drug lord Frank Lucas' rise and fall breaks no new ground. But its vivid sense of place and time make it compulsively watchable, even at a running time of two and a half hours.
New York, 1968: Ellsworth "Bumpy" Johnson (an uncredited Clarence Williams III), dean of post-World War II Harlem gangsters, dies suddenly, leaving a power vacuum. To the astonishment of the neighborhood cadre of small-time hoodlums looking to move up in the underworld, Johnson's longtime driver self-effacing, North Carolina–born Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington) steps in and takes over. Having spent ...