Movie Reviews

DVD Review: “The American Gangster”

(Sony. 1992/2008. 1 Disc. Color. 48 minutes. Not Rated. Directed by Ben Burtt. Music by Marco D’Ambrosio.) Documentary.

No, this isn’t the Denzel Washington movie from last year, just to eliminate confusion. I’ve always been fascinated by that period of American history between the two World Wars: the Roaring ’20s and Prohibition, the stock market crash of ’29, the Depression, and perhaps most importantly, the rise of organized crime. Well-known names such as Al Capone, Bugsy Siegal, John Dillinger, Lucky Luciano, and Dutch Schulz have been romanticized in books, movies, and popular song: this competent effort uses vintage film and photographs to present a more straightforward, though ultimately cursory, portrait of these gangsters. A bit frustrating, as one can’t get much more than an overview in less than an hour. Director Burtt (who also helmed the IMAX feature Blue Planet) is best known as an Oscar-winning sound effects designer who worked for Lucasfilm for many years; he’s now at Pixar.