American Gangster is one of my favorite Ridley Scott movies, beautifully staged, shot and edited, chock full of charismatic characters and undeniably relevant to the world we live in today, while still being an action-packed and suspenseful escape from the everyday, with a score that keeps you on the edge of your seat the whole time.
The film is a 1970s costume drama set on the colorful streets of New York City, and stars Denzel Washington as the drug kingpin at the center of an underdog-led investigation that takes a New Jersey detective – played by Russell Crowe – on a roller coaster ride leading all the way to the war in Viet Nam.
Russell Crowe met the real Richie Roberts, and described their encounter in an interview once. Richie, as one gathers from the film, is a bit of a basket case in his personal life, not prone to the best judgment in general, but stubborn as fuck-all when it comes to doing his job, and hanging on to his own personal brand of integrity.
The film dramatizes his divorce and custody battle over his young son memorably, and this fan poem, based on the 26th Psalm, is inspired by that scene.
Judge me if you will, my case is before you.
For I have worked my beat with integrity,
trusting the even-handedness of the law.
I will go my own way – I shall not stumble.
Test me, if you doubt my word – you can try me.
Burn through what’s left of my conscience and my heart.
I’ll take whatever’s left of your kindness back
and carry on with my honesty intact.
I have not joined in with the double-dealers
nor have I fallen in with the criminals.
I despised the racketeering rank-and-file,
never mixing with those cynical bag men.
Just let my reputation stand unsullied
when I present myself in court, your honor,
and let me take this moment to be thankful
for the law’s impartiality and truth.
Judge, I have faithfully served the public good
placing the spirit of the law above all.
Do not stifle my work against offenders
by painting me with the same brush, rank with blood,
from hands that are grasping and deep into plots,
their right hand caught out, stuffed with cash from their bribes.
But do what you will, my integrity stands.
Redeem my hard work, if you respect courage.
I have planted both feet fast on level ground.
In all my endeavors, I honor the law.