Gangs of New York (2002)

I took the father, now I’ll take the son.

— Bill the Butcher

I have been meaning to watch Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York, but I didn’t want to devote the time to it. When I saw the “Top Five Irish Films” on Matt’s site, CyniCritics, I thought I would visit this movie. It stirred up controversy when it was campaign to pick up any of its ten Oscar nominations in 2002 when it something happened to make it shut out in every single category. I felt bad that it went home empty-handed. Looking at it now, I kinda see why.

Taking place during Civil War era New York City, the film focuses on Amsterdam Vallon (Leonardo DiCaprio), a man returning back to his old stomping ground at the Five Points. where sixteen years earlier, he witnessed his father, Priest Vallon (Liam Neeson), the leader of the Dead Rabbits get killed by a rival gang leader, the head of the Natives, William “Bill the Butcher” Cutting (Daniel Day-Lewis).

An old friend of his, Johnny (Henry Thomas) tells about the disintegration of the city. The name “Dead Rabbits” was never spoken of again. The members of the Dead Rabbits integrated into the Natives. The city has been divided with no clear leader to rise up against Bill and his regime. The climate of the city is ripe with tension from the Natives having boatloads of Irishman coming to the city, blacks being somewhat free and Abraham Lincoln being vilified as a traitor.

After the duo loots a house where rival fire bridges are fighting to see who would put out the fire, they bump into Bill. Bill doesn’t know anything about the son of Priest Vallon coming back, even though his gang sent him away to Hellgate: House of Reform. Every year, Bill pays tribute to the anniversary of killing Priest in a ritual every year, which he relays to his new protégé, Amsterdam that he lets him run his shady dealings.

Amsterdam tries to live out the adage, “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” As an assassin tried to kill Bill, Amsterdam stops him for succeeding in what he wanted to do. They become closer. When an ally betrays Amsterdam, he is forced to regroup the old gang to rise up against Bill.

I know that Scorsese wanted to make a movie that chronicle the shaping of New York City the way that is today. I get it, but I thought this movie did not get the point across. I did not care about any of the characters. It was a typical revenge story set in the 19th century. I spent almost three hours of buildup to get premature ejaculation. What I mean by that is that I thought the big showdown was anti-climatic. Shit. It was literally two minutes. What a disappointment.

Judgment: Have you read my last paragraph?

Rating: **1/2

About Branden

Branden: I am just your average movie nut that reviews films. Gives his take on pop culture and Hollywood happenings. Dreams to have his own thriving website and make a living doing what he is passionate about.

Posted on March 26, 2010, in 2002, Academy Award Nominee, Crime, Drama and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. If nothing else, this movie deserved to win Daniel Day-Lewis the Best Supporting actor Oscar. Though I understand your problems with it, I still enjoy it. The anti-climatic ending was probably intentional… Scorsese rarely gives his characters the satisfaction they strive for. I still think the battle scenes are epic, even if that last one doesn’t focus on the Amsterdam and Bill the Butcher conflict. Good write-up even if we have disagreements about the film.

    • Actually, DDL was nominated for Best Actor. I thought he was good. He’s Daniel Day-Fucking-Lewis. Of course, he is. I heard that this movie was supposed to be an hour longer, but Miramax wanted to trim alot out of it. I don’t know if there’s a Director’s Cut, maybe my opinion would change.

  2. I can’t decide who’s the most horrifying character of the decade Bill the Butcher, or Detective Alonzo.

  3. I sort of agree with you on this although I liked the movie slightly more. The films definitely feels quite long and it seems to be building up to nowhere. Still the performance by DDL is enough to keep one at least mildly entertained 🙂

  4. This movie is in a way a lot like There Will Be Blood, where, even though its 3 hours long, I enjoy the hell out of every second of it. Disappointed that you didn’t really like it. I think its one of Martin’s best.

    • I love Scorsese. I guess I am more of a 90s Scorsese lovers than his modern movies, except for The Departed and Shutter Island.

  5. I can’t quite put my finger on what it is about this movie, but I really loved it. Leonardo DiCaprio is pitch-perfect as always, and Daniel Day-Lewis is scary good.

    I love these big, sweeping movies. I love being able to have the time to get fully and completely emotionally invested in a movie, and “Gangs of New York” worked for me.

  6. In my opinion, Daniel Day-Lewis, is so much better here than he was in There Will be Blood. It sucks though that at the Oscars, it was the hardest Best Actors competition, and of course he had no competition against the Holocaust film.

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