American Gangster, The Desert Rats, Sweeney Todd: the Demon Barber of Fleet Street: films on TV today

Cop Russell Crowe dogs drugs kingpin Denzel Washington, Richard Burton has James Mason's Rommel in his sights, and Johnny Depp is giving everyone a close shave: the RadioTimes team’s pick of free-to-air films on TV today

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ANDREW COLLINS:  FILM OF THE DAY 

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American Gangster ★★★★
10.05pm-1.15am ITV4 

In this true-life New York crime saga, set between 1968 and 1974, Denzel Washington brings a suave tranquility to his role as emerging Harlem drugs lord Frank Lucas, while, in parallel, Russell Crowe’s honest New Jersey cop Richie Roberts juggles divorce, pariah status within a corrupt police department and, eventually, the logistics of bringing Lucas down. It’s as if The Godfather, GoodFellas and Scarface met TV’s The Wire: grand overstatement combined with procedural detail, grainy 70s style and junkie sleaze, all held together by the sure hand of Ridley Scott. Beyond Josh Brolin’s poisonously bad cop, a fine supporting cast struggles to make any meaningful impact in the wake of a dominant Washington — not least in the poorly sketched female roles — and fidelity to events takes the dramatic sting out of an operatic climax. Nevertheless, this is still a classy crime fable that succeeds despite sidestepping the electric set pieces of such genre maestros as Martin Scorsese or Brian De Palma.


The Desert Rats ★★★
11.20am-1.05pm More4 

Richard Burton rallies boozy Robert Newton and a ragtag band of Aussie troops to take on Rommel during the battle of Tobruk in this rousing adventure.


Daleks — Invasion Earth 2150 AD ★★★

4.55-6.40pm Movie Mix 

Peter Cushing’s Doctor  battles his old enemy once again, only this time their confrontation takes place on Earth in the future. Bernard Cribbins co-stars as a hapless copper who enters the wrong type of police box.


Sweeney Todd: the Demon Barber of Fleet Street ★★★★
9.00-11.20pm ITV2 

Tim Burton’s blood-drenched version of composer Stephen Sondheim’s masterwork stars Johnny Depp as the man offering more than a bit off the sides.


The Thing from Another World ★★★★
12.55-2.35am Movies4Men 

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Seminal sci-fi yarn about an alien invader who goes on the rampage after he’s thawed out by curious scientists at the Arctic. It may lack the gruesome shocks of John Carpenter’s 1982 remake but still has suspense and badinage to burn.