Underwhelming. Despite its star-studded cast, “American Gangster” fails to deliver. Its story — based on a feature in <i>New York Magazine</i> — chronicles the rise and fall of Frank Lucas (played by Denzel Washington), a shrewd and intelligent 1970s Harlem heroin operation mastermind. Lucas climbs his way to the top when he imports heroin directly from Southeast Asia, rather than working through the usual channels, offering a better product at cheaper prices. Inspired by the Mafia’s model, he brings his family up from North Carolina to run the operation, and he is extremely successful. That is, until Richie Roberts (Russell Crowe), seemingly the only honest cop in all of New York and New Jersey, is assigned to investigate the case.