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Thursday, December 31, 2015

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Gunfights and Films - Urban New York Edition

Gunfights and Films - Urban New York Edition

Gritty, urban streets and the shady dealings of gangland activity are what drives these two films set in New York in the 60's and 70's. American Gangster tells us the true story of Frank Lucas and his rise and fall in being a Crime Boss. Dead Presidents follows the story of two young men that turn to robbery to help out their woes. Both stories show the various sides of cause and effect in crime that is both fictionalized as well as based on actual events in our history in poverty stricken cities of America. There are some intense scenes that feature gunfights, gunshots and amazing dialogue. Let's take a look at these urban classics.

American Gangster is the 2007 biographical crime drama that centers on the life of Frank Lucas, a low level gangster working out of Harlem who in the late 1960's rose to power after devising a way to smuggle a pure form of heroin to the States directly from the Far East during the height of the Vietnam War. Directed by Ridley Scott, the film stars Denzel Washington as Lucas and Russell Crowe as Richie Roberts, a New Jersey detective who was instrumental in taking the crime boss down. (Ironically, both actors previously starred together in Virtuosity, in which Washington played the cop and Crowe played the criminal.)

The film opens with Bumpy Johnson  and Frank Lucas pouring gas on a man and then lighting him on fire. As the man screams in pain, Frank shoots him. Bumpy runs Harlem in 1968 and says to Frank that big business in taking over and there is no more room for the little guy. He has a heart attack and dies in a nearby store. We see other mobsters showing up to this funeral. It is seen as a huge loss in the community and the crime world struggles with what to do with his share of the neighborhoods and their dealings.

Meanwhile Richie Roberts is a New Jersey detective who is taking classes to become a lawyer and hates public speaking. He's a complex man filled with anxieties and frailties but passionate about bettering himself, to an extent.  He and his partner find a million dollars in cash and they argue about turning it in, but Richie turns it in anyway. Because Richie won't keep any of the money for himself or let his fellow officers keep it, his fellow officers mock and ridicule him. Richie is seen as weak and his coworkers aren't shy about how they feel about him and his decisions.

Frank is unhappy with the way the mob is being run and it seems he always has to pay off another mobster named Tango. Tango is an old associate of Bumpy who wants control of part of Bumpy's old territory. As Frank is having breakfast one morning Frank makes it clear to Tango and everyone else that he is the boss now. Frank takes over Bumpy's roll as community saviour and will be in charge off all illegal business dealings in those neighborhoods. As  Frank decides how he can improve business  sees on T.V. that drugs are very cheap in Vietnam and so he buys a passport and goes to visit his cousin who owns a night club in Vietnam. He comes up with a plan that succeeds for quite some time. Frank makes a deal with his cousin to bring heroin back to the U.S. by smuggling it in coffins of dead soldiers returning from Vietnam. He goes to Nam to talk to his future provider directly. Since there is no middle man, Frank can sell heroin cheaper than anyone else in New York; it is also pure heroin nicknamed "Blue Magic."

Richie's marriage is failing because his wife says he doesn't spend enough time with their son. After they divorce, his wife says she and her son are moving to Vegas. Richie struggles with being a good cop and a good father. He also has trouble staying out of trouble when it comes to women.

Richie gets a phone call in the middle of the night from his partner, Javier, who is flipping out because he killed a guy in his apartment, claiming the man opened fire on him. They bandage the dead guy's neck to make it look like he isn't dead. Richie tells his partner that he needs help because he is hooked on drugs, which is why he killed the guy in the first place. His partner freaks out and jumps out of the ambulance. His partner says that it was Richie's fault to begin with, because he takes drugs to forget that everybody at the police station sneers at him. It's getting tougher for Richie on the job.

Frank at this point is doing very well. He owns several nightclubs and moves his brothers and mother from North Carolina to New York. He buys his mom a very nice house, a mansion with a huge garden and gives her a vanity for her bedroom that he'd had made from his own memories as a child in North Carolina. Success seems to flow from every direction.

We see Richie trying to fight for custody but it turns out that his chances aren't that good because even though he's an honest cop he hangs out with bad people and likes to sleep with hookers. He even has sex with his lawyer. Richie once again struggles with the balance of being a good cop with bad associates and wanting to be a good father to his son. I imagine it's not far off from the everyday struggles those that work in law enforcement face when it comes to their families. Afterall, Richie was part of this true story as well.

Frank gets his brothers from the south to help him sell his drugs and gives them good money for doing their job, the were called The Country Boys. He distrusts strangers and wants to give back to his family. He works hard to build his empire and wants to hold onto it at all costs. At one point Frank, yells at one his family members for dressing too nice because he feels that if you dress too nice you draw attention to yourself. It is also at this point that he meets Eva , a Puerto Rican Beauty Queen, and falls head over heels for her. Adding a more complex level of life to Frank's empire.

Richie's partner overdoses on drugs which promotes Richie in order  to start a Narcotics Unit and go after the big guys, not any small time dealers. They aren't too successful at first so Richie decides to start on the streets. This newly formed law enforcement unit was mired down in the basic street hustles and small deals. Then Richie discovers Blue Magic and tries to figure out who could sell such powerful stuff so cheaply. Upon finding a lead  he and his partner follow a large sum of money they'd given to a dealer and take the tunnel to New York to follow it. While trying to retrieve the money he runs into detective Trupo. Trupo doesn't much care for Richie but feels it's best to return the money and tells Richie not to come back to New York again because it isn't his jurisdiction.

One fateful night Frank and his girlfriend go to highly publicized boxing match between Muhammad Ali and Joe Louis. He sits right up front and has better seats than some of the world's biggest entertainers. Frank also wears an expensive chinchilla fur coat and hat Eva had bought for him, and he has the opportunity to shakes hands with Joe Louis. Richie sees all of this and figures it's a good time to get the license plate number from the limo Frank was riding in. Richie is not the only one who notices Frank is doing a little too well. Trupo stops Frank's car crammed with drugs and takes them away, and tells him that he wants his share of the money he's making to the tune of 10,000 dollars each month. When he arrives home, Frank throws the expensive coat which has put him under the spotlight into the fireplace to burn.

Richie discovers that the man he saw was Frank Lucas and wants to bring him down. The only problem is Richie has no evidence that Frank is a drug dealer. The picture that Frank has painted as him being a family man and pillar of the community was difficult to break through and Richie continued to come up against road blocks when following the path of Frank Lucas.

After the wedding of Frank and Eva detective Trupo stops the couple as he wants to extort them for ten thousand dollars a month to keep his mouth shut. Frank also has to deal with local competition mobster Nicky Barnes who was trying to sell heroin under the name of Blue Magic, but Nicky has been cutting the supply and selling it himself while still using Frank's brand name. Barnes was nothing but trouble for Frank from the beginning.  Shortly after all of this Frank and his wife almost get shot by an unknown. We never find out exactly who it is, but we are lead to think that it was Nicky.

One night Richie gets lucky and sees one of Frank's men almost kill his girlfriend. Instead of putting the guy in prison they have him wear a wire. This is where Richie learns how Frank gets heroin back into the U.S. Things don't look too good for Frank now. Since the war is over he can't get his drugs back into the U.S. the way he was before.  Richie manages to search a U.S. plane but finds no drugs. He also teams up with Trupo who is more than happy to take down Frank as he blew up Trupo's car. Trupo goes so far as to search Frank's house. Richie gets into an argument with some U.S. General because Richie is making it look like the U.S. military is smuggling drugs. Richie's men find drugs in coffins located at a warehouse and invade. There is a huge shoot out and they arrest Frank while he is at church. All the pieces of the empire crumble to the ground.

Richie and Frank finally meet and Frank says he isn't concerned as to what happens to him However, Richie offers him a deal which strikes Frank's interest. If he turns in all his offshore accounts and he gives in all the corrupt cops' names, he will have a much more lenient sentence.

Frank turns in other drug dealers and crooked cops and gets his sentence reduced because he is being so helpful to police. Richie ends up relinquishing  custody of his kid and lets his wife take him to Vegas. Frank is released from prison in the 1990s.

This movie is one that I've spent a lot of time watching. In the era that all of these events occurred, Frank was a trailblazer both legally and illegally. He helped law enforcement during his time incarcerated and has assisted in the war on drugs. Let's take a look at the weapons used in this film.

 Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington) carries a Fegyver és Gépgyár PJK-9HP. This weapon is chrome plated with wood grips, and has been converted for blank fire. During production the gun was set up as a "solid plug" version, meaning the barrel was completely blocked off so the gun could safely be fired close to a person's skin. This was necessary for the scene in the film where Lucas shoots a rival gangster in the forehead, and then places the gun on his chest.
There was only one FÉG pistol rented for the production, so the same gun can be seen on screen in every shot. It can be matched by the wood grain of the grips and small scratches on the frame.

 FÉG PJK-9HP - 9x19mm. This is the screen-used hero blank-fire weapon used by Denzel  Washington throughout the film.

Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington) with a nickel plated PJK-9HP threatens Tango (Idris Elba) who owes him money.

 Frank with his PJK-9HP after shooting Tango.

Frank drops the PJK-9HP on his victim.

To watch the scene with Frank & Tango you can watch it here:

A MAC-10 is used by one of the drive-by shooters during a assassination attempt on Frank and his wife.

 Ingram MAC-10 open bolt submachine gun - .45 ACP

A drive-by shooting on the streets of Harlem with a MAC-10 9mm.

 The shooter fires at Frank and his wife.

To watch the scene with the drive by you can do so here:

Detective Roberts (Russell Crowe) and various other police officers use Ithaca 37 shotguns during the raid on Frank's heroin distribution center. Another Ithaca 37 is seen in the hands of one of the thugs at the distribution center.

      Ithaca Model 37 riot version - 12 Gauge

   Detective Roberts fires the Ithaca 37 during raid.

The Colt Official Police revolver is used by various police officers throughout the movie. Both the 2" snub nosed version and the 4" standard configuration are carried.

  Colt Official Police - 4" Barrel - .38 Special

Police Officer during raid on drug factory.Note the exposed ejector rod.

To watch the Heroin House raid you can do so here:

To watch the Gangland episode featuring Frank, you can watch it here:

To see what other weapons were used in this film you can go here:

This movie is perfect for when you're in the mood for gritty truthful tale set in New York. Grab a hot dog and a soda from the corner vendor  and plop on the couch for a great film.

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Dead Presidents

This action drama was the second film by the movie-making twins, Albert and Allen Hughes. The two started their careers with the urban drama, Menace II Society, and this effort has a 70s urban setting. The style and skill of these talented filmmakers is immediately apparent and the script which they co-wrote with Michael Henry Brown has well-developed characters and great tension along with explosive action scenes framed with an engrossing small scale story. The acting is excellent, but the real star here is the Hughes direction which is cool and inspired.

We open the film in the spring of 1969, Anthony Curtis  is about to graduate from high school. However, Anthony is not going to college, but needing to get away from home to find himself, he enlists in the U.S. Marine Corps shortly after graduating high school. He is sent to Vietnam, leaving behind a middle-class family, a pregnant girlfriend, and a small time crook, Kirby, who is like a second father.

Anthony voluntarily joined the military and his close friend Skip later joined Curtis's squad after flunking out of college, and Jose, got drafted into the Army also in 1969. Once in the Marines, Curtis meets the gung-ho lieutenant, Dugan, and his wartime friend, Cleon, a religious yet deadly staff sergeant. During their tour in Vietnam as members of a Force Recon unit, they experience the horror of war, losing several fellow Marines during combat. The Marines also commit atrocities, including executing enemy prisoners and beheading corpses for war trophies. One of their squad is the victim of terror tactics of the North Vietnamese: D'ambrosio , who is disemboweled and castrated alive. While waiting for medevac, Anthony, succumbing to the request of the dying D'ambrosio, gives the man a fatal dose of morphine. One of their squad is killed by stepping on a land mine and a night ambush ensues, with NVA troops and half of Anthony's team killed; Dugan is killed after Skip can't perform during the gunfight when he is ordered to cover him. Cleon manages to hold off the enemy long enough for Anthony and the last of the crew to escape.

When Anthony returns to The Bronx in 1973, after four years of service and presumably multiple combat tours in Vietnam, i.e. multiple tours of duty, and attaining the rank of sergeant, he discovers that returning to a normal life isn't easy or pleasant. He finds his friend Skip, who used drugs during the war, is now a heroin addict. Jose, after serving as a demolitions expert, during which he lost his hand, has become a pyromaniac. Cleon is now a devoted minister. And Kirby has since become legitimate due to police cracking down on his criminal business. Anthony is laid off from his job in a butcher shop and finds himself unable to support his daughter. During a pool game at Kirby's Cowboy makes fun of Anthony and informs him that Cutty  was having sex with his girlfriend Juanita while he was deployed in Vietnam, he beats up Cowboy with a pool stick out of anger. Anthony pesters Juanita into admitting to sleeping with Cutty to provide for their daughter, in which there is speculation if the child is even Anthony's.  Anthony meets his girlfriend's sister Delilah. She is a member of the "Nat Turner Cadre", a fictional group similar to black revolutionaries.  Delilah has always had a crush on him and decides to help him with a plot he devises. Anthony, Kirby, Skip, Jose, Delilah and Cleon plan to rob an armored car making a stop at the Noble Street Federal Reserve Bank of the Bronx.

Skip and Cleon act as lookouts, Kirby is the getaway driver, Delilah waits in a dumpster across the street and Anthony and Jose hide under the loading docks, all armed. Though they plan the heist very carefully, it goes horribly wrong when a policeman stumbles on the scene by accedent. The policeman interferes, resulting in Kirby's attacking him, only to be shot in the arm, and Skip's shooting the policeman in the head. The security guards engage the robbers in a gunfight, ending with Anthony and Delilah's killing the most and Delilah's dying while saving Anthony as the truck leaves. After Kirby tries to block the truck with his car, Jose makes use of an excessive amount of explosives, destroying the armored car and burning most of the cash. They escape with what money is left, but Jose has been killed after being struck by a police car.

The surviving four try to lie low after the robbery. Cleon however begins handing out cash to members of his congregation, also buying a new Cadillac car which he obviously cannot afford. Anthony and Skip give out presents to poor children on Christmas. Cleon is finally arrested at his church and gives up the other thieves. NYPD officers storm Skip's apartment to find that he has died of a heroin overdose. As Kirby and Anthony prepare to leave the country, they are ambushed at Kirby's pool hall by the police and arrested. In court, Anthony is tried, convicted, and sent to prison for 15 years with an L. Anthony berates the judge, a war veteran himself, who also goes so far as to call him a disgrace to any person who put on uniform and served his country. Upon receiving his sentence, Anthony gets angry and throws the chair at the judge. After the court, Anthony on a police bus and goes to jail.

Not known to be a film of truly uplifting nature this movie does speak to some of the socio-economic issues of those neighborhoods and the problems in that era. Action packed and charged with an underdog plot line this movie does have a lot of intense gunfight scenes. Let's take a look at some of the weapons used.

During Anthony's tour in Vietnam, he carries an anachronistic Mossberg 590 shotgun, which wasn't introduced until 1987. In order to make the shotgun resemble a more accurate Mossberg 500, the 590's original wood has been replaced with sporting wood taken off of a 500C model.

Mossberg 590 Combat model (Parkerized) with 500C wood forearm and stock - 12 gauge. Custom assembled and photographed for IMFDB by MoviePropMaster2008.

Anthony fires his Mossberg 590 in the jungle. Note bayonet lug, heat shield, and Mossberg Sporting wood furniture. Historically, this gun would not be introduced until 1987.

Anthony realizes his shotgun is out of ammo. Note the Mossberg style chamber and trigger guard.

Many of the men in the Marine Recon unit use the M16A1 rifle. Lieutenant Dugan's is noteworthy in that it is an M16A1, but it has the original M16 three prong flash hider, indicating that it was mocked up to resemble the XM16-E1. Historically this would be unnecessary, since the M16-A1 was already widespread in the field throughout Vietnam by the 1970s.

M16A1 with 20 round magazine - 5.56x45mm

D'Ambrosio, and another member of the Marine Recon unit firing on the enemy with M16A1 rifles.

Dugan aims his M16A1, made to resemble an XM16-E1 by the addition of the 2nd model three prong flash hider.

As Anthony is the designated shotgunner, the platoon Staff Sergeant, Cleon (Bokeem Woodbine) is the designated autogunner. He carries an M3A1 "Grease Gun", which in the movie has a very memorable muzzle report and slow fire rate. The sound of fire for this weapon, is obviously taken from a much larger caliber weapon.
 M3A1 "Grease Gun" - .45 ACP

 Cleon (Bokeem Woodbine) reloads his M3A1 "Grease Gun".

                                         Cleon aims his M3A1 "Grease Gun" next to Dugan.

To watch the footage from the scenes in Vietnam you can watch it here:

During the robbery, a nickel plated model M1911A1 is used by both Kirby (Keith David), who fires a whopping 11 rounds without locking, and Skip blows alway the NYPD Officer on beat (Chris Tucker).

      Nickel plated M1911A1 - .45 ACP

Kirby (Keith David) fires on the police officer attempting to intervene in the armored car robbery with a nickel plated 1911A1.

Skip fires the nickel plated 1911A1.

The police officer who attempts to intervene in the armored truck robbery uses a Smith & Wesson Model 10. He is drawn by Kirby's 11 rounds fired from his Commander, and returns 9 of his own from his six shot revolver, making their gun battle highly fictitious. Another Smith & Wesson Model 10 is used by Joe in the planning room, and after the robbery as he fires 8 rounds without reloading at a pursuing police car.

   Smith & Wesson Model 10 HB (Heavy Barrel) Revolver - .38 Special

 Joe pulls his Smith & Wesson Model 10 in the planning room.

 The intervening police officer fires on Kirby with his Smith & Wesson Model 10.

 Joe aims his Smith & Wesson Model 10 at an approaching police car.

Delilah uses a blued Colt Government Model as well as an M1911A1 during the armored car heist.

     Colt Government Model M1911A1 - .45 ACP

Delilah armed with a blued Commander in her left hand, and a Colt Government Model in her right hand.

  No notes were given for this shot of Delilah but it captures the scene beautifully.

Delilah lies dead with an empty Colt Government Model. Somehow it managed to get into her left hand.

To watch one of the scenes from the heist you can watch it here:

This film features some amazing actors and captures the dialogue and issues of the era and neighborhoods. Well directed, action packed and hard hitting. Grab some popcorn and settle in to a film that portrays the urban life of New York.

To see what other weapons were used in this film you can go here:

This three day weekend make sure you take a moment to look at the tactical items we're offering on sale right now here: Current specials from Cactus Tactical

Be safe out there tonight and we wish you all  a very happy New Year!

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Shawn in the Korengal Valley, Kunar Province, Afghanistan.

For more info on these and other weapons
Technical specs compiled from:

"The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement."


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