Twenty-something Richard travels to Thailand and finds himself in possession of a strange map. Rumours state that it leads to a solitary beach paradise, a tropical bliss - excited and intrigued, he sets out to find it.
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. Written by
The film is based partly on Herbert Asbury's book of the same name. The book's depiction of the draft riot, which remains the biggest in US history, is more in line with historical fact, and portrays the gangs as pro-slavery, racists, and lynchers. See more »
In the final scene, the weeds grow over the tombstones and just before the fade out the wind blows the grass in front of the final gravestone left on the right. When this happens the tombstone flaps around, revealing it is foam or similar lighter than stone material. See more »
For all its' Uber-violence, 'Gangs of New York' is a majestic piece of filmmaking. Director Martin Scorcese reunites once again with Editor Thelma Schoonmaker and Production Designer Dante Ferretti thusly recreating a potion of a country's history spectacled with infestation, disease and rampant violence. These are but some of the characteristics employed in an unconventional manner in hopes of telling a memorable story. Scorcese displays to the filmmaking world how imaginative he can be with his long overdue, epic and costly motion picture based upon a time in New York City's history where violence was not sporadic, but a necessity for survival. Set directly in New York's Five Points District, on a micro scale the film tells the vengeful story of Amsterdam Vallon (Leonardo Di Caprio), a young man who returns 16 years after being banished from Five Points after witnessing his father's defeat at the hands of a vicious rival known as Bill The Butcher; infamous for his fixation with the meats and his innate sense of slaughterous murder. Upon Amsterdam's return, he has but one aim - avenge his father's death at the hands of the vicious 'community leader' William Cutting,, a.k.a. Bill The Butcher. Cutting prides himself as being a sadistic and remorseless thug who surrounds himself with the filth of the community in order to profit himself and his political allies. Daniel Day Lewis comes out of seclusion for a craft he apparently dislikes and simply nails this performance as a sophisticated and well-spoken murderer who has no parameters nor morals to bound him. He fights for the Yankee Way and opposes anyone who threatens the American lifestyle.
On a macro scale, the story is a piece of American history as it recreates the arduous battles commenced in 1846 between the Irish settlers and the Anglo- Saxon 'natives' who sought to protect their country against foreigners. In all of this, the draft riots are explicitly revealed as those who chose not to fight were sought out and forced to. At one point, the film effortlessly demonstrates how immigrants were drafted right off the boats as they had a suitcase from a foreign country one moment, and an American Uniform the next practically unable to speak the English language, yet ready to wage war against an unknown enemy. The draft riot scene is a pivotal sequence in the film as it prepares the anti-climactic finale in which more violence and an astonishing amount of blood are spilled over the original streets of New York. This film makes every effort in highlighting what the term 'gang' means as it has undergone various permutations in definition. The original story by Jay Cocks (The Age of Innocence) has been filtered by Kenneth Lonergan (Analyze This) and Steven Zaillan (Hannibal) and contains the conventional pratfalls of Hollywood Cinema such as double crosses and plot twists, yet they are thankfully kept to a minimal. The story retains its core not so much on the development of the characters, but on the development of the times and interestingly enough, the interplay between Bill The Butcher and his rival Priest Vallon was stressed. Despite their differences and years after Priest's death, The Butcher still honored and celebrated his life. Sharing the same values and only divided by faith, honor was still a trait some had amidst all the ruins. Throughout all this lies an ingenious film in which Scorcese allows his characters to develop and evolve, as the film is a delicate piece of cinema balanced against a sensitive subject matter and directed with the utmost class and originality. Production Designer Dante Ferretti recreates the filth-infested streets and deplorable living conditions as poverty, decay, infestation and paucity are not spared in order to retell one of the vilest stories in recent memory. Those who are familiar with Scorcese's work will know he is the machine behind such films as 'Casino', 'Goodfellas' and the perennial classics 'Taxi Driver' and 'Raging Bull'. Those films are always under constant attack for the apparently amoral manner in which they exude violence, and now Scorcese can add the cornerstone of all violent films with 'Gangs of New York'. This is a perversely tempestuous violence-riddled film filled with gore, viciousness and intensity all in good use in order to demonstrate the living conditions when everyone had to sleep with one eye open. The film commences with no opening credits, just the company credits roll as we see Liam Neeson play the character of Priest Vallon, a highly admirable Community leader also fighting for what he believes in, the safety and prosperity of the Irish people based in New York. As the film opens, we see him bestow values upon a young Amsterdam Vallon as an opening battle sequence of epic proportions is mounting. The weapons are being bladed, prayers are being said and families are told goodbye as these warriors will clash on the streets of New York for the right to claim property and ownership of honor amongst thieves. Eerily close to the Brian De Palma School of suspenseful filmmaking, Scorcese seems to take a page from the aforementioned Director as the opening sequence is mounted in a very resourceful manner. Quick editing cuts thanks to Thelma Schoonmaker's hand demonstrate the weapons being sharpened as one tracking camera shot pans through the Dead Rabbits Gang led by Priest Vallon as the increasing volume in music indicates war is near. The camera tracks all the characters as we have been inside from the beginning of the film, and we have been introduced to the poverty and wretchedness of the times in a dark and cold shelter. Then the camera points towards a door and as it opens, all we see is a blanket of white symbolically representing the purity of the war and its' valor, but foreshadowing the red coat of paint about the cover the cobble stoned streets of New York. Phenomenal. That is filmmaking, and as the pace quickens, the war commences as challenges are made, met and the massacre ensues as our film slowly introduces the viewer to the violence as Scorcese aims to condition the viewer - B.F. Skinner style. This is somewhat different than his other outings whereas in both 'Goodfellas' and 'Casino' Scorcese boldly introduces ultra-violence without the slightest amount of warning. In this film, Bill the Butcher (Daniel Day-Lewis) commences the war immediately as he slices and dices his way through the street enmeshed in a series of direct stab wounds yet no blood, but as he progresses and continues his assault, the knives are introduced as blood soaked, then the puncture wounds are accentuated as he pierces his way through flesh and finally we see his face saturated in the blood of others against the intentionally misplaced musical score of Howard Shore (The Lord of the Rings Trilogy).
This sets the tone for a film not aiming to please anyone or to alleviate the discourse of cinematic violence. It recreates a time when violence was rampant and for the purposes of storytelling, the violence quotient was necessary to give justice to the lewdness of the situation. Even women are not spared as Cameron Diaz portrays a charismatic pocket thief named Jennie Everdeane.
Despite her romantic engagement with Amsterdam, through her savage beating Scorcese displays no one was spared during the riots from the hands of predatory thieves who were vying to survive. Many have voiced criticism over the lengthy running time, and while many have stated there were segments which could have been trimmed, I disagree. At a running time of approximately two hours and forty minutes, the film recreates a piece of history sought with fragility and values conveyed to the viewer. People would give their lives for this war waged for the rights to claim ownership of NYC and it was of the utmost importance to develop that religious fanaticism closely. The characters in the film resemble heavily wrapped boxes, in which Scorcese allows to be unwrapped a little at a time; all the while he displays his prowess as a Director who astonishes with this film. For it is true the pacing was uneven at times, and the unraveling of the characters could have been sped up. But all of this is intentional in order to evoke a climax which represents their war between the Foreigners and the Anglo-Saxons in a city that had enough of its' riotous ways. While the violence will surely turn off Academy Members, Daniel Day Lewis' performance will not and this film will stand the true test of time as a story so unequivocally told it will remain indelibly etched in viewers minds long after the final sequence. Transition shots display the evolution of New York City from a point of view of a tombstone nestled right under the Brooklyn Bridge. Cross dissolves start in 1863 and documents the changes from that exact point up until the time the Two Towers of NYC were standing. Perhaps reminding the world despite the progression of mankind, we are still not civilized.
Giancarlo's Rating: ***
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