HD DVD movie American Gangster star and Australian Russell Crowe is in strife with former US Narc Agents filing a $50 million legal action claiming that the Oscar contender movie is defamatory.
The suit, filed yesterday in New York, accuses Ridley Scott’s film of distorting the facts and deliberately painting the staff of the Drug Enforcement Agency as villains.
American Gangster stars Denzel Washington as the true-life drugs kingpin Frank Lucas, who turned government informant following his conviction in 1975. Specifically, the lawsuit takes issue with the film’s closing assertion that Lucas’s information exposed agency corruption and “led to the convictions of three-quarters of New York City’s Drug Enforcement Agency”. The DEA contends that none of its agents were convicted as a result of Lucas’s evidence.
“This is absolutely off the wall,” Dominic Amorosa, a prosecutor in the federal case against Lucas who now represents the agents, told the Associated Press. “I don’t know what these people are thinking but they are going to pay for it.”
Michael Mose, a spokesman for Universal Pictures, the studio behind the film, has dismissed the suit as “entirely without merit”. He added, “American Gangster does not defame these or any other federal agents.”
The case could hinge on how factually accurate American Gangster claims to be. Late last year, NBC Universal vice president David Burg described the film as “a fictional work”. However, AP quotes a Universal spokesman who claims they have “every confidence that the material facts are conveyed truthfully”.
The class action suit has been filed by retired agents Jack Toal, Gregory Korlinoff and Louis Diaz on behalf of themselves and 400 other former agents. “Most of the movie is not true,” says Toal, who was one of the agents involved with Lucas. “If they had said ‘This is based on a false story’ it would have been a lot better.”