Using his wits and a family connection in Thailand, Frank Lucas (Washington) steps into the gap left by his late mentor, Harlem hood Bumpy Johnson (Williams), and soon becomes the most successful heroin dealer in New York City. But dogging his efforts every step of the way is arrow-straight, Jersey-bred cop Richie Roberts (Crowe), who must overcome corruption in his own ranks to nail his man.
Why we love it
This riveting film tracks the rise of a real-life Harlem crime lord who built an empire smuggling heroin on U.S. military planes during the Vietnam War. Washington's portrayal of Lucas as low-key and a bit of a loner feels entirely plausible, while Crowe's exemplary turn as the hard-bitten, unlucky-in-life Roberts completes the picture. Scott's complicated, multilayered narrative, which pits Brolin as a menacing cop out to sabotage Roberts's mafia crackdown, is gritty and intense. Superb support work by Ruby Dee, Cuba Gooding Jr., Armand Assante, and Chiwetel Ejiofor seal the deal.