American Gangster Beat Sheet


Screenplay by Steven Zaillian
Directed by Ridley Scott
Running time: 150 minutes
Year: 2007


EXTERNAL GOAL: To create a business with a superior product | To expand and maintain his business
INTERNAL GOAL: To win at all costs
MAIN DRAMATIC CONFLICT: Richie | Mobsters | Trupo
THEMES: Capitalism | Greed
CENTRAL DRAMATIC QUESTION: Will Frank be able to expand and maintain his business without being arrested or killed?
ENDING: Frank is arrested.
ARC: Frank goes from a Harlem gangster’s driver to the most successful heroin supplier in the United States, but is arrested when he refuses to quit.

PROTAGONIST: Richie Roberts
EXTERNAL GOAL: To uncover and arrest Blue Magic’s supplier
INTERNAL GOAL: To have integrity
THEMES: Integrity | Courage
CENTRAL DRAMATIC QUESTION: Will Richie arrest Frank?
ENDING: Richie arrests Frank and shatters his heroin empire.
ARC: Richie goes from an ostracized cop to the head of an undercover drug operation that takes down the most successful heroin supplier in the United States.


American Gangster Story Engines


Frank Lucas buys a large supply of heroin in Thailand to cut out all the middle-men in stateside drug trade. Detective Richie Roberts discovers his partner Jake is a junkie and refuses to cover for him when Jake commits a crime.


After Jake dies of a heroin overdose, Richie’s assigned to head an undercover drug operation. Frank brings his family into his operation and boldly eliminates competition. Richie hits a roadblock, uncovers corruption in the NYPD. Frank’s organization expands when he strikes a deal with the Italian mob to distribute his heroin.


After Frank calls attention to himself in public, Richie begins investigating him. Frank squares off against Trupo, a corrupt NYPD detective. When a mobster friend attempts to bribe him, Richie discovers Frank is the supplier he’s been after. Frank survives an attempt against his life.


Frank travels to Thailand to secure what may be his final shipment. From an informant’s tip, Richie searches a military cargo plane, but is stopped by the U.S. Attorney before he can search the coffins on board. He tails the coffins and discovers what could be Frank’s heroin. After a fierce battle, Richie and crew take down Frank and his operation.


Acting as the prosecuting attorney, Richie coerces Frank into testifying against all his former associates and giving up all his cash for a shorter sentence.



Sequence I: Frank Lucas’ mentor, Harlem gangster Bumpy Johnson, suffers a heart attack and dies.

American Gangster Beat Sheet Opening Image

2 – OPENING IMAGES: FRANK LUCAS burns and executes a Hispanic man. His mentor, BUMPY JOHNSON, oversees.

3 – Bumpy showers cheering Harlemites with Thanksgiving turkeys. He motions for Frank to assist, revel in the glory.

4 – Frank and Bumpy enter a vast electronics store where televisions broadcast images of Vietnam. No sales force is there to greet them.


Where’s the pride of ownership here? Where’s the personal service? Does anybody work here? What right do they have cutting out the suppliers, pushing all the middlemen out, buying direct from the manufacturer?

American Gangster Beat Sheet Inciting Incident Frank

5 – INCITING INCIDENT (Frank): Bumpy suffers a heart attack and dies.


Sequence II: At Bumpy’s wake, Frank finds allies and rivals. Richie and his partner Jake uncover nearly a million dollars in cash in a suspect’s trunk. Believing the money could put them in danger with other cops, Jake warns against turning it in, but Richie does it anyway.

6 – At Bumpy’s wake, Frank observes the attendees. The majority are not there to mourn, but rather treat it as a social gathering.

7 – As Frank pets Bumpy’s German Shepard, he’s approached by CHARLIE, an older dope dealer. Bumpy made Charlie promise, in the event of his death, Frank would “want for nothing.”


Half the people in this room owed Bumpy money when he died. They think I’m gonna forget to collect, but I’m gonna get that money.

8 – During a law school class, RICHIE ROBERTS has a panic attack before presenting the prosecution’s argument for a case.

9 – Richie and his partner, JAKE, serve a subpoena to a local wise guy, CAMPIZI. Richie and Jake apply some heat and get a lead on a local dealer’s bookie.

10 – Richie and Jake tail the bookie to a parking lot where the bookie drops off a car. Richie and Jake stay to see who picks it up.

13 – INCITING INCIDENT (Richie): Richie breaks into the car’s trunk and discovers a large amount of cash. Jake warns against turning it in, believing it could put them in danger with other cops.


Richie, a cop who turns in this kind of money says one thing: he’ll turn in cops who take money. We’ll be pariahs.


We’re fucked either way.


Not if we keep it. Only if we don’t. Then we’re fucked, you’re right. But not if we keep it.


Yes, we are.


Goddamn it, did we ask for this? Did we put a gun to someone’s head and say, give us your money? Cops kill cops they can’t trust. We can’t turn it in, man.

American Gangster Beat Sheet Inciting Incident Richie

14 – Back at the station, Richie and a few officers count almost a million dollars cash while other cops look on. TOBACK, Richie’s superior, criticizes Richie for counting the money in front of everyone.


Sequence III: Corrupt cops control the drug trade in New York City. Frank leaves for Bangkok in an attempt to buy a large supply of heroin and cut out all the middle-men.

16 – NYPD DETECTIVE TRUPO and crew cut cocaine from the evidence room and mix it with lactose.


This is the French Connection dope. The same dope Popeye Doyle and Sonny Grasso took from us. They seize it, arrest everybody, whack it up and sell it back to us. Our dope. They’ve been living off it for years, these New York cops.

16 – Trupo sells the dope to ROSSI, an Italian mobster. The cops control the market.

17 – Frank buys a kilo of the Trupo dope from Rossi.

17 – Frank receives a lead from two drugged-out servicemen on Nate, Frank’s cousin whom now runs a club in Bangkok.

19-20 – TWENTY PERCENT SETUP: At Frank’s favorite diner, TANGO attempts to push Frank out of the neighborhood. Frank remains cool, stands his ground.


Bumpy don’t own 116th Street no more, Frank. Bumpy don’t own no real estate in Harlem no more. I’m the landlord and the lease is twenty-percent.


Twenty percent is my profit, Tango. I give you that, what do I got left? Nothing. Twenty percent puts me and everyone you know out of business. There’s legitimate ways to do things, Tango and then there’s this. Not even Bumpy took twenty percent.


Bumpy’s fucking dead.

Frank regards Tango a moment, gets up, takes out his money clip, covers the check on the table with a five, peels off a dollar bill from the clip, tosses it down in front of Tango.


There. That’s twenty-percent.

As he turns and leaves, Tango watches after him...

21 – Frank works numbers on a pad and paper. Later, he calls Nate from a phone booth.

22 – STRONG MOVEMENT FORWARD (Frank): Frank gets a money order for $400k, shots and a passport: He’s going to Bangkok to buy heroin from the source.


Sequence IV: In Thailand, Frank buys one hundred kilos of pure heroin from a Chinese general. Richie discovers Jake killed a dealer in an attempt to score dope. Richie refuses to cover for Jake’s crime and Jake runs.

23-24 – Richie’s ex-wife informs him she’s moving to Vegas with their son, criticizes him for not being involved as a father.

26-27 – Frank arrives in Bangkok to buy one-hundred kilos of pure heroin. Nate agrees to help.

28 – Frank and Nate trek through the jungle with soldiers and Thai mercenaries, arrive at an opium farm controlled by Kuomintang, a defeated Chinese army.

American Gangster Beat Sheet End of Act One Turn Frank

29-30 – END OF ACT ONE TURN (Frank): Frank negotiates a deal with a Chinese GENERAL and buys heroin directly from the source.

31 – Frank insists Nate give $100k to transportation end of the operation, twice the amount he agreed to pay.


Look, that’s all I got. So, if that dope don’t arrive for any reason... Cousin or no cousin, I’m a busy man, alright? I got no time to be going to nobody’s funeral.

32 – Richie receives a frantic call from Jake.

32 – Richie races to help Jake, radios police dispatch for assistance. The dispatcher tells him no available units are in the area.

Richie knows this is a lie; a result of turning in the cash.

American Gangster Beat Sheet End of Act One Turn Richie

33-34 – END OF ACT ONE TURN (Richie): Outside a housing project apartment, Richie forces his way past an angry mob. Inside, he finds Jake stoned out of his mind and a dead body with gunshot wound to the neck. Richie instructs the two paramedics on hand to bandage the corpse to give the crowd the impression they’re rushing him to the hospital.

35-36 – In the ambulance, Jake lies to Richie, claiming the dealer pulled on him. Richie manhandles Jake, discovers a wad of cash and track marks on his arms.

Jake robbed the dealer for his cash and dope: he’s an addict.

36 – Jake begs Richie to help him cover it up.


I’m a leper. Because I listened to you and turned in a million bucks. No one will work with me after that. I can’t off this shit, Richie! It’s easy – just write the report. Between us, as partners.


I can’t do that.

36 – Jake jumps out of the moving ambulance, flees.


Sequence I: Frank finds big success with pure heroin, which he dubs Blue Magic. Richie is called to the morgue where he finds Jake dead. Blue Magic is among his possessions.

37 – Frank picks up his dope from military police on a military base outside of Washington D.C.

38 – A chemist tests the dope for Frank.


Typically what I see is twenty-five percent pure. I’ve never seen anything like this. No alkaloids, no adulterants, no diluents. It’s one hundred percent.

39-40 – Images of Frank’s operation cutting and distributing Blue Magic juxtaposed against images of Harlem kids playing in the city streets.

40 – Frank buys a luxury apartment on the Upper East Side with cash.

42 – While fucking his divorce attorney, Richie receives a call…

American Gangster Beat Sheet First Casualty Richie

43 – FIRST CASUALTY (Richie): Richie arrives at the morgue: Jake’s dead. He finds a packet of Blue Magic with Jake’s belongings.


Sequence II: Richie’s assigned to head an undercover drug operation. Frank brings his family into his operation and boldly eliminates competition.

44 – Toback offers Richie an undercover job with the U.S. Attorney. Richie can pick his own men.

45-46 – Frank moves his family from rural North Carolina to an estate in Teaneck, New Jersey.

47 – BASEBALL POTENTIAL SETUP: Frank’s nephew has potential as a major league pitcher.


He got an arm on him. Major Leauge arm, ain’t that right.

Everyone agrees as Turner’s son – Frank’s nephew the 18-year-old boy tries to shrug.


You show me after supper.


You can’t catch him. He’ll take your head off. We’re talking 95-miles-an-hour. You know how fast that is? You see the ball leave his hand, and that’s the last you see before it knocks you down.


(smiling; happy)

Is that right.

47-48 – Frank gives his mother the estate. Inside, he had her room recreated from his childhood.

49 – At a night club in Newark, Richie scouts agents for his operation.

49-50 – Frank walks his brothers through Harlem and his operation.


The man I worked for had one of the biggest companies in New York City. He ran it for more than fifty years. Fifteen years, eight months and nine days, I was with him everyday. I worked for him, I protected him, I looked after him, I learned from him. Bumpy was rich, but he wasn’t white man rich. You see, he wasn’t wealthy. He didn’t own his own company. He thought he did, but he didn’t. He just managed it. White man own it, so they owned him. Nobody owns me though. That’s cause I own my own company and my company sells a product that’s better than the competition, at a price that’s lower than the competition.

51 – At the diner, Frank lectures his brothers: Honesty and family and are most important in business.


The most important thing in business is honesty. Integrity. Hard work. Family. Never forgetting where we came from. See, you are what you are in this world. That’s either one of two things: either you’re somebody, or you’re nobody.

American Gangster Beat Sheet First Trial Frank

52 – FIRST TRIAL/FIRST CASUALTY (Frank) & TWENTY PERCENT PAYOFF: Frank spots Tango, leaves his brothers in the diner. When Tango refuses to pay him his twenty percent, Frank shoots him in the head on a crowded street, takes the money owed, calmly walks back to lunch with his brothers.


Sequence III: Richie’s team chases a suspect with $20k in marked bills into Manhattan. There, Richie observes Trupo shaking down his suspect and discovers corruption in the NYPD.

53 – FIRST TRIAL (Richie): Richie assembles his team. Their mandate is to make major arrests for suppliers and distributors: big shipments, big money, and big temptation.

55 – Richie’s team tests Blue Magic, discovers its potency.


Richie and the others watch Jones test the heroin.


Stuff’s ten percent pure. Strong enough to smoke for all those suburban white kids afraid of needles.

The other detectives exchange a glance. None has ever heard of anything on the street that pure.


You paid ten bucks for it?


And it’s all that’s out there.


Now, how is that possible? Who can afford to sell shit twice as good for half as much?

Richie glances to a Table of Organization: Surveillance photos haphazardly thumb-tacked to a bulletin board – known dope men in the hierarchies of their individual crime families – almost all of them Italian.

57 – CHINCHILLA SETUP 1: Frank confronts his brother Huey over his “Superfly” appearance, saying that he’s drawing unwanted attention to himself.


That’s a clown suit, a costume with a big sign on it that says, “arrest me.” You understand? You’re too loud. You’re making too much noise. The loudest one in the room is the weakest one in the room.

59 – Frank meets Miss Puerto Rico, EVA. They’re smitten with each other.

60 – With no solid leads, Richie’s team must start over.

61 – Toback gives Richie $20k to follow a lead. If Richie loses the money, he can’t get it again.

62 – Working undercover, Richie puts down a $20k deposit for Blue Magic with mechanic/dealer. They are forced to follow him out of their jurisdiction and into Harlem.

63 – Following the dealer to a Harlem diner, Richie observes Trupo and crew shake him down and take the $20k.

American Gangster Beat Sheet Midpoint Richie

64-65 – MIDPOINT (Richie) & UNANNOUNCED SETUP: Outside the diner, Richie flashes his badge and informs Trupo that the cash is registered with Essex County. Trupo gives back the money with one stipulation:


When’s the last time I was in Jersey? Let me think. Never. What’re doing coming over here without letting anybody know? You don’t know you can get hurt doing that? You got your money. Now, never, ever, come into the city again unannounced. You come in to see a fuckin Broadway show you call ahead first to see if it’s okay with me.


Sequence IV: Richie’s contact in organized crime doesn’t know who’s selling Blue Magic. Frank’s organization expands and he strikes a deal with the Italian mob to distribute Blue Magic.

66-67 – Frank tells Eva about Bumpy and introduces her to his mother.

68-69 – After a softball game, Richie attends a barbecue at Joe’s house. He mentions to JOE that his ex-wife brought up Joe’s name to child services. Joe is involved in organized crime and Richie asks him to omit details of the relationship if they should come up.

70 – Richie asks about Blue Magic. Joe is close-lipped, but mentions whoever it is has upset the natural order of things.

70-72 – From Bangkok to North Carolina, Queens to Brooklyn, and Bronx to the bank, Frank’s operation expands.

73 – At one of Frank’s penthouse parties, Huey’s driver gets into a coked-fueled argument with a crooked detective and shoots him in the leg. The party goes silent. Frank erupts into violence, beats the driver senseless.

74 – Frank lays down the law with his brothers: No one is to talk with him directly anymore. All communication must come through Huey.

75-76 – Frank meets with Italian mob boss DOMINIC CATANO at his luxury estate. Dominic reasons for a partnership.

American Gangster Beat Sheet Midpoint Frank

77-78 – MIDPOINT (Frank): Frank cuts a deal with the mob to sell Blue Magic for $50k a kilo, less than the $75-80k per kilo they currently pay. In return, the mob agrees to expand Frank’s reach across the country.


Sequence I: Frank wears an expensive chinchilla coat to a boxing match, Richie and Trupo take notice. Richie begins investigating Frank. Trupo attempts to shake him down.

79 – At the narcotics squad HQ, Richie studies photos of dealers in a Table of Organization. He’s hit a wall, doesn’t know who’s at the head. Frank’s photo isn’t included.

80 – CHINCHILLA SETUP 2: Frank proposes to Eva. Later, she gives him a fifty thousand dollar chinchilla coat.

American Gangster Beat Sheet Chinchilla Coat Frank

80-81 – CHINCHILLA SETUP 3: At the fight, Frank breaks his rule and calls attention to himself by wearing the chinchilla coat.

82 – Richie, working undercover as a photographer, notices Frank sitting with Joe Louis. When Frank shakes hands with Ali as he’s on the way to the ring, Richie takes Frank’s picture.

82 – Trupo notices Frank.

83 – Richie highlights Frank’s photo during a meeting with his crew: They’re gonna investigate Frank.


Better seats than Dominic Catano. Joe Louis shook his hand. Who the fuck is this guy?

84 – Frank marries Eva.

American Gangster Beat Sheet Declaration of War Frank

85 – DECLARATION OF WAR (Frank): Trupo and crew pulls over Frank’s wedding limo. Trupo attempts to shakedown Frank for $10k a month, but Frank ignores him.


A man walks around in a fifty thousand dollar chinchilla coat and never even bought me a cup of coffee... there’s something wrong there. You pay your bills, Frank?


I don’t know what you’re talking about.


Do you pay your bills, I asked you.


If you’re not getting your share, it’s not my fault, go ask the chief of police.


What’s my share. You don’t even know me. Maybe I’m special.


No, you’re all the fuckin same.


(shows his shield)

What does that say?

(Frank ignores him)

Special – Investigations – Unit. See that word there? “Special.”

(he takes out a restaurant business card)

Ten grand, first of each month, delivered here.

Frank ignores the care, stares at Trupo like he’s a fool.

86 – Frank skips the honeymoon. Back at his penthouse, Eva watches as he torches the chinchilla coat into the fireplace.


Sequence II: Richie uncovers details on Frank and his operation, but doesn’t believe Frank’s the supplier. Frank celebrates Thanksgiving with his family while the drug he profits so well from destroys lives.

87-89 – ASSUMPTION OF POWER (Richie): Richie uncovers details on Frank and his operation. He knows each of his brothers run legitimate businesses as fronts for the Blue Magic distribution and collection points.


Everything about Frank’s life seems unpretentious, orderly and legitimate... Bumpy Johnson’s life wasn’t typical either and he ran Harlem for years. Everything he does, he does the same as Bumpy would have done. And who was Bumpy most likely to teach? The guy he sees everyday. It’s like a Sicilian family. He structures his organization to protect him in the same way. And if he was with Bumpy for so long, that means he would have spent a lot of time with Italians. Definitely long enough to learn that much.

89 – Richie believes Frank is not their man. As they do not have enough evidence to convict Frank, their goal is to dig into Frank’s operation and find out who his supplier is.

90 – Frank celebrates Thanksgiving with his family. Richie eats a turkey sandwich alone.

90 – Trupo finds a caged turkey on his doorstep. Seconds later, his prized Shelby Mustang explodes.

91 – A Harlem junkie dies with her child nearby.

92 – BASEBALL POTENTIAL PAYOFF 1: Frank confronts his nephew Steve, the aspiring baseball player, for not showing up to a meeting with the Yankees. When Frank digs in, he learns Steve has given up on baseball because he wants to be just like him.


Sequence III: Frank confronts Nicky Barnes over diluting and reselling Blue Magic and Trupo gets the upper hand in another shakedown. Joey attempts to bribe Richie to call of his investigation of Frank, letting Richie know Frank is the supplier he’s been looking for.

94-95 – Frank confronts Nicky Barnes. Nicky’s been diluting Blue Magic and selling it for more profit. Frank insists that Nicky call it something else. Furious from Frank’s demands, Nicky shatters a glass. Frank calmly walks away.

96 – Trupo pulls over Huey and Frank. Trupo discovers heroin in the trunk, an error on Huey’s part…


(shows Frank the dope)

What are we gonna do about this?


We ain’t gonna do shit about it. We gonna close it up, throw it back in the trunk. Everybody go home and have some pumpkin pie, warm apple cider.


I got a better idea. Or would you rather me throw you and brother in the fucking river?


Or would you rather your house blows up next time?


I loved that car.


I know.

96 – Richie observes the shakedown.

96 – After Trupo pulls away, Frank kicks Huey’s ass.

97 – Richie receives no cooperation from federal authorities in his investigation.

99-100 – Joey offers Richie a house to cease his investigation of Blue Magic and its distributors. Richie refuses.


Isn’t there something we can do – about leaving the big guy alone? You know who I mean.

What Richie knows is that no matter what he does or says at this point he’s got a problem.


If I don’t report what you just said to me, you know I could be in a lot of trouble. If I do, then the trouble’s yours.


I’m hoping you won’t do that.

Richie considers the room itself, measuring the odds of microphones and a recorder being in it somewhere.


I’m not taping it. How do you know? Because we’re friends and I’m telling you. This is a real offer.


From who, your uncle?

(Joey doesn’t say)

Why would you do this? Why would you risk our friendship?


Because I care what happens to you.


You shouldn’t have done it.


I had to. I had no choice. Neither do you. Leave Frank Lucas alone.

American Gangster Beat Sheet End of Act Two Turn Richie

100 – END OF ACT TWO TURN (Richie): When Joey tells him to leave Frank Lucas alone, Richie knows Frank is the supplier he’s been looking for.

101 – On the way home from the store, Richie gets a surprise he didn’t expect: divorce papers.


Sequence IV: Criticizing Richie of neglect, Richie’s wife causes a scene in court. Richie gives up rights to his child, allows his wife to move out of state. Later, Frank survives an attempt against his life.

102 – Before the divorce proceedings begins, Richie apologizes to his wife and pleads with her to not take his son from him.


Laurie. I’m sorry I couldn’t give you the kind of life you wanted. I’m sorry it was never enough. But don’t punish me for being honest. Don’t take my son away.

She stares at him in disbelief. Then responds in a louder voice than his –


What are you saying? That because you were “honest” and didn’t take money like every other cop, I left you?

The bailiff looks over, but she doesn’t care.


You don’t take money for one reason: to buy being dishonest about everything else. And that’s worse than taking money nobody gives a shit about – drug money, gambling money nobody’s gonna miss.

(more people look over)

I’d rather you took it and been honest with me. Or don’t take it, I don’t care. But don’t go out and get laid by your snitches and secretaries and strippers. I can tell just by looking, she’s one of them.

His lawyer. Which is true. Everyone’s watching them now.


You think you’re going to heaven because you’re “honest,” but you’re not. You’re going to the same hell as the crooked cops you can’t stand.

103 – As Richie’s attorney delivers the closing argument, Richie interrupts. He agrees with his wife: he’s not responsible enough to raise a child. Richie apologizes and walks out.

104 – Outside Frank’s apartment building, Frank’s driver gives Trupo a couple bottles of Cristal. Trupo is now on the take.

105 – Frank chats with Charlie. They both know they’re being followed.

American Gangster Beat Sheet End of Act Two Turn Frank

107 – END OF ACT TWO TURN (Frank): As Frank and Eva wait outside a Chinese restaurant for their food, they survive a hit. Though Eva is unhurt, Frank’s shot in the arm.


Frank sees the car again, coming around the corner, walks briskly back to where Ana waits. The car is almost upon them as he grabs her by the wrist and pulls her hard along the sidewalk. The car guns its engine –


As Frank pushes in past the doors with Ana, the windows explode. They dive to the floor, bullets ripping through the place.

Doc draws his two guns and fires back at the car, hitting it a couple of times as it screeches off. He gathers Ana and Frank off the floor like a presidential bodyguard, hustles them out to the car. Frank’s shoulder is bleeding.


Sequence I: Trupo attempts to coerce Richie into backing off Frank, but he doesn’t budge. Frank meets with Dominic regarding the hit. Dominic makes him realize that success has made him too many enemies.

108 – Frank meets with his brothers. They don’t have a clue who ordered the hit.

109 – Eva packs their bags and insists they leave, but Frank lays it down: he’s not running.

110-111 – UNANNOUNCED PAYOFF: Trupo enters Richie’s office and attempts to bring him in on protecting Frank.


So, what I hear it was the Corsicans mob that took a shot at Frank. You know, The French Connection, Fernando Rey, the exporters the Frank’s put out of business. Look, I can take care of him in New York. He just don’t want to have to worry that every time he drives across the bridge to Jersey, someone’s gonna take another shot at him.

Richie gives nothing away even as it stuns him that Trupo would speak to him this blatantly.


Richie, you and I gotta start working together. We need to step up our efforts. Next time their aim could be better. We need to keep this cash cow alive.

Trupo sees the Lucas Table of Organization he didn’t notice when he came in...sees Frank’s picture at the top, like Enemy Number 1.


Were you actually gonna arrest Frank Lucas? What’s the matter with you?


Everybody in New Jersey’s crazy. You know what we do here? Cops arrest bad guys. Before you get on the bridge again, you should call me first. Just make sure it’s safe.

112 – SUCCESS MAKES ENEMIES SETUP: At Frank’s penthouse, Frank demands Dominic find out who ordered the hit. Waxing philosophical, Dominic tells Frank he doesn’t know, that success has enemies: This is the life they chose.


“I can guarantee you peace of mind,” you said. Do I look like a man with peace of mind to you? They shot at my wife. Who does that? Who was it, which one of your people? I’ll take that gun away and shove it up their ass.


I don’t know that it was any of them, Frank. Neither do you.


Then maybe I’ll kill them all just to make a fuckin point.

Dominic seems more philosophical about it – like Bumpy might have been – but it wasn’t him who was shot at.


It was a junkie. Or a rival. or some dumb ass kid trying to make a name for himself. or someone you forgot to pay off. Or slighted without realizing it. Or someone you put out of business by being too successful.


Success has a lot of enemies. Your success took a shot at you. How you gonna kill it? By being unsuccessful? You can be successful and have enemies or unsuccessful and have friends. It’s the choice we make.


Sequence II: With the announcement of U.S. Troops leaving Vietnam, Frank travels to Thailand to secure what may be his final shipment. Huey’s driver shoots his girlfriend and Richie uses it as leverage to turn him into an informant. As a result, Richie uncovers what may be the tail number of the plane bringing in Frank’s shipment.

American Gangster Beat Sheet Point of No Return Frank

113 – POINT OF NO RETURN (Frank): Frank calls Nate. With U.S. Troops leaving Vietnam, Nate says another shipment is impossible, but Frank won’t take no for an answer: He’s flying in to take care of it himself.

114-115 – Jimmy, Huey’s driver, gets into a drug-fueled argument with his girlfriend and shoots her. At the station, Richie and crew coerce him into wearing a wire.

115 – At the opium farm, the Chinese general, now wearing a suit and tie (in contrast, Frank wears a soldier’s uniform), talks with Frank about his plans after the shipment.


It’s not in my best interest to say this, Frank, but quitting while you’re ahead is not the same as quitting.

116-117 – Frank calls Huey from Nate’s club in Bangkok. Though the men speak in code, Jimmy overhears the details of the upcoming shipment.

117 – In Newark, Richie and crew dissect the conversation: a plane will arrive with the dope.


Sequence III: Richie searches a military cargo plane, but is stopped by the U.S. Attorney before he can examine the coffins on board. Trupo raids Frank’s estate and steals his getaway money.

American Gangster Beat Sheet Point of No Return Richie

117-118 – POINT OF NO RETURN (Richie): Armed with a warrant, Richie and crew search a military cargo plane they suspect to be filled with Frank’s heroin.

119 – Trupo and crew arrive at Frank’s Teaneck, New Jersey estate with a search warrant. He knows of Richie’s warrant and wants Frank’s getaway cash. When Eva doesn’t help, Trupo slaps her in the face and begins tearing apart the house.

119-120 – Trupo’s men destroying Frank’s mother’s room is juxtaposed against Richie’s men tearing apart the plane.

120-121 – With the plane torn apart and no sign of heroin, Richie attempts to examine the last pieces of evidence on the plane, the soldier’s coffins, but is stopped by the U.S. Attorney.

121-122 – After coming up empty inside the house, Trupo shoots Bumpy’s German Shepard and finds Frank’s getaway cash under the dog house.

122-123 – The U.S. Attorney berates Richie and Toback. Public perception of an unfavorable war with an unfavorable Army will only worsen if they find the Army is involved in the drug trafficking business.

124 – When Richie insists drugs are on the plane and explains evidence pointing to Frank Lucas as the man behind the operation, the U.S. Attorney loses it…


No fucking nigger has accomplished what the American Mafia hasn’t in a hundred years!

124 – The military takes the coffins away. Richie’s crew follows them.


Sequence IV: Frank’s mother demands Frank quit before he loses everything. Richie tails the coffins and discovers Frank’s nephew at the scene loading what they believe is Frank’s heroin. They follow him to a project building in Newark and call in a warrant from Toback.

126 – After hearing of Trupo’s raid, Frank comes home and arms himself. His mother demands that he quit before he loses everything.


If you’d been a preacher, your brothers would be preachers. If you’d been a soldier, they’d be soldiers. Do you know that? They all came here because of you. You called and they came running. They always expect you to know what’s best. But even they know you don’t shoot cops. Even I know that...

Frank argues with her and she slaps him.


Do you really want to make things so bad for your family they’ll leave you? Because they will. Eva will leave you. I will leave you.

127 – Richie and crew stakeout the coffins’ new location. They discover Stevie Lucas, Frank’s aspiring baseball player nephew, pulling up with a crew disguised as cleaners.

128 – Stevie Lucas and crew tear apart the coffins and load the heroin into their truck.

129 – Richie and crew tail the van to a project building in Newark. Richie immediately calls Toback for a warrant.


Sequence V: Richie and crew take down Frank and his operation.

130-131 – Frank’s crew cutting dope is juxtaposed against Frank attending church in Harlem with his mother.

131-133 – Warrant in hand, Richie and crew move in on the project building.

134-135 – Richie and crew catch Frank’s men off guard. A gun battle ensues and the cops take down Frank’s crew.

135 – BASEBALL POTENTIAL PAYOFF 2: Stevie, Frank’s baseball prodigy nephew, is shot in the shoulder.

135-136 – Huey flees. After a long chase, Richie catches him.

American Gangster Beat Sheet Climax

137 – CLIMAX (Frank and Richie): Frank Lucas walks out of church and into the hands of Richie Roberts.

137-138 – Cops bust all of Frank’s brothers and their operations.


Sequence I: Acting as the prosecuting attorney, Richie coerces Frank into testifying against all his former associates and giving up all his cash for a shorter sentence.

139 – Now acting as the prosecuting attorney, Richie presents his opening argument to the court in the case against Frank.

140 – Frank and Richie talk in private. Frank mentions overhearing a conversation about Richie turning one million dollars in cash.

141 – Frank attempts to bribe Richie to no avail. Frank claims taking him down won’t solve anything, as there will always be junkies, but Richie doesn’t care.

142-143 – SUCCESS MAKES ENEMIES PAYOFF: Richie has a line of people, including Italian crime families and the families of the drug addicts, ready to testify against Frank.


I got a line of people wanting to testify against you that stretches out the door and around the block. You damaged a lot of lives, Frank. I got the Mazzano crime family. Remember those boys? You put them out of business.


I ain’t got nothing to do with no Mazzano’s; Mazzano’s ain’t got nothing to do with me.


They got everything to do with you. You know why?




Because apart from the fact they hate you personally, they hate what you represent.


I don’t represent nothing but Frank Lucas.


You sure? Black business man like you? You represent progress. The kind of progress that’s gonna see them lose a lot of money. With you out of the way, everything can return to normal.


You know what normal is to me, Richie? I ain’t seen normal since I was six years old. Normal is seeing the police ride up to my house, dragging my little twelve year old cousin out and tying him to a pole. Shoving a shotgun into his mouth so hard they bust his teeth. Then they bust two shotgun shells into his head and knock his fucking head off. That’s what normal is to me. I didn’t give a fuck about no police then and I don’t give a fuck about no police now. Shit, you know what, you can do whatever you wanna do. So, it don’t mean nothing to me for you to show up tomorrow morning with your fucking head blown off. You understand what I’m saying?


Yeah, Frank. Get in line. That one stretches around the block, too.

144 – Frank and Richie negotiate a plea bargain.


What you want me to do, snitch? I know you don’t want to give up no cops. You want gangsters? Pick one. Jew gangsters, Mick gangsters, guineas... they’ve been bleeding Harlem dry since they got off the boat, Richie. I don’t give a fuck about no crime figures. You can have ‘em.


Well, I’ll take them, too.



You’ll take them, too?


No you didn’t. You talking about police? You want police? You want your own kind?


They’re not my kind. If they’re in business with you, Frank, they’re not my kind. They ain’t my kind like the Italians are not yours, alright?

American Gangster Beat Sheet Climax Internal Frank

145 – CLIMAX (Internal | Frank): Richie’s terms: Frank will take down everyone and disclose the location of all his funds. If he lies, he’ll spend the rest of his life a rich man in jail. If he tells the truth, he’ll do a shorter sentence and come out a poor man. Frank agrees as long as Richie brings down Trupo and his men.

Sequence II: Frank exposes all the corrupt police on his payroll. They’re all arrested, excluding Trupo who kills himself before he can be brought to justice.

146-147 – Frank exposing the corrupt police that worked on his payroll juxtaposed against their arrests.

147 – Trupo kills himself before officers can arrest him.

148 – Frank and Richie come to the end of their collaboration.


Good work, Frank. You know, you wanna drink or something? Celebrate?


Got any hoy water?

148 – TITLE CARDS over images of Richie taking down the Lucas Table of Organization:

Frank Lucas was convicted of Conspiracy to Distribute Narcotics and sentenced to 70 years.

Federal authorities confiscated over 250 million dollars of Frank’s assets in U.S. and foreign banks.

Frank and Richie’s collaboration led to the convictions of three quarters of New York City’s Drug Enforcement Agency.

Thirty members of Frank’s family were convicted of drug trafficking and sent to prison.

Frank’s wife returned to Puerto Rico. His mother moved back to North Carolina.

Richie Roberts quit the Prosecutor’s Office to become a defense attorney. His first client was Frank Lucas.

For his cooperation, Frank’s prison sentence was reduced to 15 years. He was released in 1991.

148 – Richie takes down the Blue Magic packet that killed his old partner, Jake.

American Gangster Beat Sheet Closing Image

149 – CLOSING IMAGE: It’s 1991. Public Enemy’s “Can’t Truss It” blares. Frank’s released from prison broke, but free.

150 – THE END.


William Robert Rich
William Robert Rich

William Robert Rich is a story analyst, screenwriter, and co-author of Story Maps: The Films of Christopher Nolan. He's currently based in Austin, Texas.

Articles: 120


  1. Thank you for the breakdown, William. Very helpful!!

    I would like to mention that the font-type on the site are very awkward and almost unreadable. but that’s probably just me.

  2. Hello, I found the analysis more than helpful as i was only expecting to see the script alone. I would kindly like to ask if the analysis can be made available in pdf for easier access? Thanks.

  3. Thank you very much for this.
    It’s remarkable that you provide this for free.
    I’m an old guy writing scripts down here in New Zealand And finding something like this is a goldmine. Thanks again.
    Billy Beggs

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