Although the film was not bad by any standards, the whole story left a lot to be desired. Though Russell Crowe is a capable actor, he sounded more Australian in this film than a Jewish New Yorker and Denzel Washington didn’t seem much of a gangster. Since the film is nominally based on the story of a real-life Harlem drug lord, Frank Lucas and the premise of this film is how an African-American criminal outsmarted and outclassed the Mafia in illicit drug trade, it would be hard to pull it off but I think the film would have better chemistry with the roles switched.
Denzel’s a good and even great actor, but he doesn’t have that dangerous edge. He’ll always look like an accountant or lawyer. The best stretch would be a disillusioned cop or slightly bad cop.
The parts I enjoyed most about the film was how it recreated Harlem in the late 60s and 70s. The fashion, the music was all done pretty good. As far as telling the rise and fall of a drug pin within 2 and a half hours, along with the crumbling family life of a straight cop against hippie-era Harlem and a city run by crooked cops, you got too much of a mouthful. Maybe if it was a TV movie series. Otherwise, the best you could do is focus on a very narrow time frame and devise good plot driver.