The film American Gangster is a real story of a cult figure, Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington) from the streets of 1970s Harlem.
Nobody noticed Frank Lucas, the quiet driver to one of the inner city's leading black gangster, Bumpy Johnson. But when his boss suddenly dies, Frank exploits the opening in the power structure to build his own empire and create his own version of the American Dream.
Through cunning and strict business ethics, he becomes a leader in the city drug trade by flooding the streets with a better product at a better price. He does this by cutting out the middlemen - dealing directly with opium growers in the Golden Triangle in southeast Asia.
Lucas' gang eventually starts to control the drug trade above the better known Mafia families, and becomes a black power player who has come from nowhere to dominate the scene.
As he amasses a fortune in the process, the authorities - both crooked and straight are out to get him, as are rival drug dealers, once they figure out who he is.
Important lessons we can learn from this film:
Keep A Low Profile
When Frank takes over from his boss Bumpy, nobody knows who Frank was, which is fine for Frank because he’s more interested in making huge amounts of money than in making a name for himself. Foolish pride never factors into Frank’s way of doing business, so he flies under the radar of the authorities for years. When the authorities discovers that a new player has taken over the entire New York heroin trade, they never suspect it is Frank and think it must be the traditional Mafia families. They think there’s no way anyone other than the Mafia who could pull off such a feat. By the time they realise that it is Lucas who’s responsible - a black man from Harlem, of all people - it is too late; Frank has already created an empire.
“The loudest one in the room is the weakest one in the room,” Frank informs his younger brother Huey, who shows up to his party dressed like a pimp. When Frank goes out, he goes to his own club and surrounds himself with his own people. No gold medallions, no bling-blings - Period !. Do not in any case attract unwanted attention.
Sell Better, Cheaper Products
Frank cuts out the middlemen and deals directly with opium growers in southeast Asia.
Brand Your Product
Frank believes in the importance of creating a recognised product or a “brand.” Frank warns rival gangster Nicky Barnes, whom he supplies his drugs to, not to tamper with his product by diluting it. Frank is proud of the quality of his drugs which he refers to as the “Pepsi of smack” or “blue magic.”
Share Your Wealth
For anyone in this line of work, you need the support of the people on the street - your customers and future customers. Each year, Frank is seen handing out turkeys on Thanksgiving. He employs hundreds in his drug refineries and makes sure to always give the impression that, despite peddling drugs on a massive scale, he is actually good for the community.
Watch this film.
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