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
What can be said of a film where the best scenes were the few seconds at the end, where the New York skyline morphed from the slums of Five Points to the skyline pre September 11, 2001.
This film may appeal to those who want to see a violent blood bath set in grimy surroundings and played out by Hogarthian degenerates, but it is not in any way entertainment. I kept waiting for Dante's Inferno to open up and swallow them into the fiery furnace. The films plods unrelentingly through human misery and violence for more than two and a half hours. Never once did I get the feeling that it may not be pleasant to watch, but at least it was raising my consciousness. This was just a film of violence, blood lust and misery, as repulsive as Kurasawa's "The Lower Depths".
I felt as if the director was making a film about depravity for the sake of depravity. As if there should be a voiceover stating that "In the Casbah/slums of Shanghai/Limehouse/Paris/Bombay every vice is catered to. Murder, drugs, vice, white slavery. No one asks questions, no one knows your name, you can hide or disappear, or make someone disappear." The opening voiceover from all those black and white films noire - Algiers, Shanghai Gesture, etc. This is debauchery from the comfort of your cinema seat.
Daniel Day-Lewis's ludicrous leering mustachioed Victorian melodrama villain robbed the film of any credibility and belonged to vaudeville. Far and away the only performance worth watching was Jim Broadbent as Boss Tweed. The overrated and unappealing Cameron Diaz and Leonardo diCaprio deserved each other.
I can now understand why comedies and musicals did so well during the depression. Some of us go to the cinema to be uplifted and entertained. There is beauty in the world if you want to look for it.
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