Two films that I missed last year came with huge reputations: American Gangster and No Country for Old Men. Everyone from critics to crew had an opinion about these. Pretty much universally, the view was that Gangster is awesome, but in the case of No Country opinions were polarised. People either thought it was pointless and brutal (just to clarify, they meant this as a bad thing), or brilliant.

I went into both of them with huge expectations, and with No Country for Old Men I was not disappointed. I was on the edge of my seat from the first minute until (almost) the last scene – and if it had have ended with Anton walking off after the car crash it would have been perfect. The ending seemed a little tacked on, which lessened the impact somewhat, but overall it was like watching a Quentin Tarantino-style action movie with a layer of sophistication spread over the top. It’s a 9 out of 10 for sure.

American Gangster, on the other hand, blew me away – with boredom. It’s a long film (157 minutes) that feels even longer. The dialogue was pure cheese (check the shouting in the background in many of the scenes for absolute cringe-factor), Denzel was wooden, and Russell Crowe was as unlikeable as ever. It was like the bastard child of Scarface and Catch Me If You Can, except about one tenth as entertaining.

What I didn’t get was the dude Denzel plays is clearly a complete psychopath who is capable of killing (relatively innocent) people at the drop of a hat, and is responsible for flooding the streets with cheap pure heroin with all the repercussions that brings, and yet we’re supposed to sympathise with him as he helps bring down the crooked cops. I might have occasionally been on “team psycho” in the past (Freddy, anyone?), but Denzel just alternates between moody and angry and frankly there’s nothing to like about his portrayal.

On the positive side I now have something to argue about with basically everyone I know. 4 out of 10.

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