A lot of stuff happens in this movie, from drug busts to bribery to courtroom eruptions to Chinchilla coats being tossed on fires, but not very much of it really seems to be thematically related to some larger point that the movie is trying to make. It's a movie with a lot of sound and fury, but ultimately, signifying not much of anything.
The great American crime movies, The Godfather I and II, Scarface, and so on burn with the passions of their lead characters, take their power from their ambitions and uncertainties. I couldn't really tell you what makes Frank Lucas, Denzel Washington's character, tick. He gets a couple of minor subplots - buying a house for his mother, coping with the established Italian mobs - but sorry to say, it's a pretty shallow depiction of an interesting person. Russell Crowe's Richie Roberts has a little more to do, but again, very little of his screentime seems pointed towards building some larger conception of what crime and crime-fighting in America are about. So anyway, I was moderately entertained by all the flash and ridiculous outfits, and Washington has at least one terrific outburst involving a blood-stained carpet, but I was left generally unsatisfied.
The supporting cast is pretty strong, especially Chiwetel Ejiofor, Ruby Dee, and Josh Brolin. On the other hand, Lymari Nadal as Lucas's Puerto Rican wife is pretty bad and I could barely make out anything said by her, Armand Assante, or the RZA.