Gangs of New York (2002)

Gangs of New York (2002)
  • Time: 167 min
  • Genre: Crime | Drama | History
  • Director: Martin Scorsese
  • Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Daniel Day-Lewis, Cameron Diaz


Having seen his father killed in a major gang fight in New York, young Amsterdam Vallon is spirited away for his own safety. Some years later, he returns to the scene of his father’s death, the notorious Five Points district in New York. It’s 1863 and lower Manhattan is run by gangs, the most powerful of which is the Natives, headed by Bill “The Butcher” Cutting. He believes that America should belong to native-born Americans and opposes the waves of immigrants, mostly Irish, entering the city. It’s also the time of the Civil War and forced conscription leads to the worst riots in US history. Amid the violence and corruption, young Vallon tries to establish himself in the area and also seek revenge over his father’s death.


  • I must say that it was an amazing movie going experience. The work that went into making this movie was incredible. Ever thought what it would be like to live in the 1800s? Well here you go! Director Martin Scorsese uses his marvelous vision to accomplish a fantastic drama. And does it in a way that no other individual on the face of this earth can imagine it done. The dialogue is witty and sharp, the sets incredible, the ensemble cast convincing in their roles, and the cinematography brilliant. Daniel Day-Lewis as the “bad guy” of the piece chews the scenery a bit much but is still good in his role and Leonardo DiCaprio as the young hood trying to take him down is also good. This film also features some tremendous fight scenes and is a very solid production that works very well. A marvelous achievement for Scorsese!

  • Leading Actor(s): Leonardo DiCaprio and Daniel Day-Lewis
    Notable Actor(s) in Support: Cameron Diaz and Liam Neeson
    Director: Martin Scorsese

    Basic Storyline
    A man comes back to his hometown to avenge the death of his father

    My Review
    A priest and a boy pray. They pray not for themselves, but for the men that they are about to face. As Irish immigrants, they have not been welcomed with much kindness to America, even though the so-called “natives” have inhabited the streets of the New World for no more than two generations. With drums beating quickly and sharpened weapons in-hand, Priest Vallon leads his men out to the town square, the Five Points, as his son Amsterdam watches from a window. Not long after, another man, armed with a knife normally used for cleaving meat, comes forth with his own men from an adjacent street. This will not be a battle for land, but rather for pride. The street erupts as wooden clubs clash with sharpened knives, and the priest falls to the snow-covered ground. Such is the way of 1846’s New York City.
    With his father passed on, young Amsterdam finds himself in the unfortunately-named Hellgate Orphanage. Skip to 1864, and Amsterdam has emerged from the orphanage as a man. He returns to his hometown, and he observes the changes that have taken place in his absence, and he soon witnesses what he has come back to see: the man who killed his father. Now the face of both power and corruption, Bill “The Butcher” Cutting walks around town as if he owns it, yet in a way, he really does. Any man who stands a chance to defeat or even has the courage to try is dispatched of in both private and public sectors. He goes as far as saying this: “Each of the Five Points is a finger. When I close my hand it becomes a fist, and if I wish, I can turn against you.”
    Managing to gain a place in The Butcher’s inner circle, Amsterdam makes himself just close enough so to give himself a chance to avenge the death of his father. Just like Amsterdam, Jenny Everdeen is seeking to make her own way in the corrupt streets of the city. A pickpocket who has gained a living, she acts as if she has herself together, but she still cannot escape her past: working for The Butcher

    My Thoughts
    One of Martin Scorsese’s modern successes, Gangs of New York tells the gritty story of the not-so humble roots that formed America. This film tells the story of where our country came from, and it never hesitates to show the aspects that you probably didn’t read about in your history classes in school. The mid-1800s was a time of social unrest capitalized by the disputes over slavery and the large boats filled with immigrants docking each day. Although it does leave out a few pieces and changes some names, this film is a very realistic depiction of America back when it was still forming a solid basis. This realism is evidenced by the set; a fully constructed five blocks of nineteenth-century streets located in Cinecittà Studios in Rome, Italy. With a story that includes the infamous Draft Riots and the rough men and women that lived in this era.
    A set serves no purpose unless the people that walk it are of the same caliber, and the cast in Gangs of New York is perfect. In his first (and certainly not last) role in a Scorsese flick, Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Amsterdam, a man who wishes to restore the power of his family’s name. Equipped with a greasy head of hair, a big mustache, and a set of butchering knives, Daniel Day-Lewis takes on the complex character of Bill the Butcher, and he gives an Oscar-worthy performance. Although his time on screen is short, Liam Neeson fits the spot of Priest Vallon very well, and Cameron Diaz is perfect for the scheming and vivacious Jenny.
    From a strictly filmmaking standpoint, I found this movie to be quite satisfactory. The scenes are cut well, the camera is angled in just the perfect spot to evoke the needed impression, and an artistic color saturation added in post-production is the finishing touch that this film needed.
    The Academy Awards of 2003 was dominated by Rob Marshall’s Chicago and Roman Polanski’s The Pianist, the latter of which nabbed statuettes for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor. Polanski is one of the best film directors to date, yet I think Scorsese deserved it more. Including the three previously listed, Gangs of New York was nominated for 10 categories, but it came home depressingly empty-handed. The biggest upsets, in my mind are the losses in Art Direction-Set Direction and Best Actor for Day-Lewis.
    If the opening scene seemed like it wasn’t quite up your alley, I advise you to pass on this film. As it was, I would assume, in the real story, New York is a violent and gritty place to be, and Scorsese notoriously never shies away from realism.
    The language is peppered with profanity, and a scene containing a naked woman (which I see as unnecessary) also comes across the camera.

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