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Posts Tagged ‘Denzel Washington’


There are times when an author or screenwriter says more than they intend to say. I wonder if Flight is one of those times. I don’t know the screenwriter (John Gatins) and his worldview. But it closely approximates a biblical worldview, and there are a number of characters who are Christians.

Flight is not an enjoyable movie to watch, unless you enjoy watching a man destroy his life. Flight is mostly about the destructive power of sin, though there is a strong theme of common grace and, at the end, a taste of redemption. As a result, it is not as depressing and nihilistic as Leaving Las Vegas. While it depicts lots of sin, it is not trying to justify or glorify it. It shows the hell of it.

The first few minutes of the movie are tough to watch if you have a sensitive conscience. Our introduction to the main character, Captain “Whip” Whitaker (Denzel Washington) is in a hotel room after a night of excess that included sex, booze and drugs. While his partner for the night wanders around the room naked (eventually, and mercifully, she gets dressed) he argues on the phone with his ex-wife and then prepares for work by snorting some coke. What we see is not a “nice” guy.

But Whip is an excellent pilot. When the flight from Orlando to Atlanta goes terribly wrong he is able to pull the plane out of an uncontrolled dive (in a very harrowing scene), and land it in a large field. He awakens in a hospital to discover that 4 passengers and 2 crew (including the woman with whom he was partying) have died. We later learn that in the simulator, no one could land the plan safely. This incredibly flawed man does something heroic.

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I expected more from American Gangster.  It stars two first-rate actors, and personal favorites, in Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe.  It is directed by Ridley Scott.  The acting and direction were very good.  The story was interesting too.  So, I’m not quite sure why I’m not content, or as content, with this movie.  Perhaps my expectations were too high.  Perhaps it was that the story takes place over such a long period of time, but offers no time line to better understand its development.  And I thought it would have more action.

It is the story of 2 men whose lives intersect, and are very similar.  Denzel plays Frank Lucas, a body guard for a Harlem mob boss.  He watches his boss, and after his death decides to step into his shoes as the neighborhood’s beneficent dictator.  He must remove some competition, and convince the Italians that he is their equal.  His is a story of dogged determination and perseverence.  He had a good head for business, but decided to use his abilities for evil instead of good.  But he justifies it based on the good he does for his family (whom he’s brought up from NC to work for him) and the community.

Russell Crowe is Ritchie Roberts, a clean cop who also displays dogged determination and perseverence.  As head of a drug task force, he hunts Lucas for years.  In the meantime, he passes his bar exam.  He cares about his son, but has trouble relationally.  He’s a womanizer, so his wife left him.  One of the subplots is the fight for custody of his son.  Since he refuses to take any bribe money or steal evidence, he drives a beat up junker through most of the movie.  It is his conflict with his wife that opens up one of the most amazing lines of dialogue.

“Don’t punish me for being honest.  Don’t take my boy.”

“You don’t take money for one reason: to buy being dishonest about everything else. … You think you’re going to heaven because you’re honest, but you’re not.  You’re going to the same hell as the crooked cops you can’t stand!”

Wow!  What an apt description of how self-righteousness functions in our lives.  We narrow God’s law down to a few things- in this case being a clean cop.  As long as we do that- we are righteous in our own eyes.  We neglect the rest of God’s commands which would condemn us, and use the ones we keep to condemn others.  He blinds himself to just how messed up he really is, and feels a martyr for suffering for his one area of obedience.  This is a great window into our souls!

Those crooked cops stand between the men for years.  Lucas hates the fact that he has to pay them off.  In another great line of thought I couldn’t find again to copy- he compares their love of money to an addict.  The crooked cops (and the hangers on in his life) can’t get enough- they are just as addicted.  Another great window to our souls!  They also hinder Roberts’ efforts to bring Lucas down.  When Roberts get the goods on Lucas, he uses him to bring them down.

The movie ends with Lucas getting out of prison to be met by Roberts who is now his lawyer.  Oh, the irony of it all.  Roberts is essentially on the take as a defense attorney, but probably sees himself as defending men from the crooked cops.  He, too, is now addicted to money.

American Gangster is what you’d expect of a gangster movie- plenty of bad language, shocking violence and a bit of nudity.  But as a morality play, it does offer us some insight into human behavior.  As a morality play, it doesn’t offer us insight into how to change and be free of our self-centeredness and addictions.

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