American Gangster. Murderers can now be film heroes. Denzel Washington’s career as a killer drug dealer (a life based on fact) is viewed as just one more success story with a wry ending. Russell Crowe, as his police nemesis, is much less sparkling. The Vietnam War background adds sad significance. (12/10/07)

Look. A set of interlocking California stories, lurid and funny and lurid again, as if viewed through surveillance cameras--which are now part of everyone’s context. Sometimes this point of view is stretched beyond belief, but the basic idea is rightly unsettling. (From the upcoming 12/31/07 issue.)

Michael Clayton. Engrossingly, George Clooney plays a slick NY legal hustler whose chief (though not only) principle is success. Tony Gilroy wrote and directed with intelligence. An entertainment, but more than. (11/5/07)

Protagonists. A documentary that braids the startlingly candid revelations of four contemporary men. The director garlands these interviews with irrelevant classical décor, but the picture testifies to the fact that, for some people, the film camera is a powerful truth-telling drug. (From the upcoming 12/31/07 issue.)

--SK

STANLEY KAUFFMANN is The New Republic's film critic.

By Stanley Kauffmann