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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Ridiculous perversion of history

Author: ragdog1 from USA
26 December 2002

Hey Martin get your history right. The events happened in 2 periods, first in 1857 and then in 1863. Both merged to distort history. What a ridiculous movie and waste of time and money. Told correctly the history of New York is amazing and a history that needs to be told, correctly. This is a joke.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Simply put -- it's just "okay"

Author: hedgepuppy from New York, NY
23 December 2002

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I'm a big fan of Martin Scorsese's work generally. I can't tell you how many times I've watched "The Last Temptation of Christ," "Taxi Driver" and "The Age of Innocence" -- three films that couldn't be more different save the director at the helm -- and I constantly get more out of them.

This wonderful strength of his films, however, is directly related to the strength in which his characters are drawn and portrayed -- both on the page and on the screen. Scorsese is a master of making you understand and appreciate people you would never meet in real life -- and usually would never WANT to --- and that's due to the script as well as his stunning visual abilities. I've never read the novel from which this script is adapted, but the script feels quite choppy, and the characters in the movie are so loosely drawn you don't get a sense of who they are -- and why you should care.

SLIGHT SPOILER HERE -- One of the primary problems for me as far as character development goes is that the sixteen years in which Leonardo DiCaprio's character is locked up . . . you have no real notion of what has happened back home. Fellow Irish gang members who were loyal to the cause are now all working for their sworn enemy, with virtually no explanation or development whatsoever. Was this a tough transition for them, or were they never really loyal to the gang's cause in the first place? We don't know. And consequently, we don't care. If they get their heads beaten in, we just wince at the gore and leave it there. We need to feel emotionally connected to these people, and that's where "Gangs of New York" primarily falls short.

Daniel Day-Lewis has been described as being "over the top" and "hammy" in his portrayal of American-born, passionately xenophobic gang leader Bill the Butcher . . . but the script lends itself to such a portrayal as his character is BY FAR the most developed and humorous and three-dimensional one written, followed in a distant second place by Cameron Diaz's scrapping Irish pickpocket. I'm glad Day-Lewis chose to make his characterization as strong as it was, because his was probably the only unforgettable character in this nearly three-hour movie . . . and that's sad. If you have that kind of time, we should know these characters very well by the closing credits .. . if they live that long.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Taking the Mickey Out of History

Author: fred-287
22 December 2002

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

For those unfamiliar with this expression, "taking the mickey out of" something means kidding it, spoofing it, "having it on." In it's origins, of course, it was yet another slur against the Irish. This film draws upon a real-life historical situation, i.e. Irish immigration and slum life in New York in the 1840s and later (as documented by Charles Dickens in "American Notes," among others) and a real-life event, i.e. the "draft riots" in New York in 1863 that turned into race rioting between the Irish and the blacks, and presents a dramatic tale intertwined with the American Civil War, the greatest intranational cataclysm in our brief history. It's an ambitious undertaking, to say the least.

Our "hero" is the son of a murdered Irish-American gang leader called "Priest" (the great Liam Neeson in too short a role) whose "Dead Rabbits" are seen preparing for battle in some endless catacombs under the slums. Martin Scorsese's trademark fluid camerawork is put to good use as the gang members march along underground until they kick out a door to emerge into a snow-covered street--New York's "Five Points" neighborhood, 1846. (Nice to see a movie with actual physical sets, not computer generated.) There follows a brutal battle with a gang of "natives" led by the chameleon-like Daniel Day-Lewis. (It took me a while to get used to Day-Lewis' accent, especially since no other character has one like it.) After the battle we jump ahead 16 years just as Priest's son, who has become Leonardo Di Caprio, emerges from a prisonlike orphanage. On his way back home to Five Points he flings his Bible into a river, yet later he seeks solace in religious rituals, thus displaying the ambivalence toward religion that's a common theme in Scorsese's films.

Scorsese's narrative approach resembles that of his masterpiece "Goodfellas" with the voice-over and the quasi-documentary introduction to the local characters. "Then there were the Plug Uglies, they spoke their own language..." The period recreation is sufficiently fascinating (hats off to Italy for being so accommodating) complete with period slang ("You needed sand to be a turtledove") that for a while it's enough to follow along without worrying about the plot too much. The movie's trailer suggested this is a revenge story but the hero, who's called Amsterdam for some reason, doesn't seem to be in any big hurry with his revenge, even coming under the wing of the same gangster who killed his father and now seems to be the "Don" of the neighborhood. For a while we're not even sure he still wants revenge, which I enjoyed, because in "real life" we're also not always entirely sure what we want, or how to go about it. Inevitably a romantic element arises, then the plot wheels start to grind.

This is when "Gangs" starts to feel forced, as all the elements need to mesh in a timely manner.


The jump-start comes when Amsterdam's pallid friend Johnny gives away his true identity to Bill "the Butcher," apparently because the beautiful pickpocket whom he'd courted chose Amsterdam instead. This made me groan a little; I mean jeez, it's SUCH a movie commonplace, how we male people supposedly think with our reproductive organs. It doesn't seem to occur to our Johnny that he'll be killed one way or another, so maybe he IS thinking with his "little head." The Butcher then becomes very surly but allows his duplicitous protege to live so that, of course, the movie's opening scene can be reprised. But by now we also have the Big Historical Events going on, and shortly there is so much violence from so many quarters--the two gangs preparing to rumble, and the race riots, and the Civil War, and windows breaking, and cannons going off, and beatings and lynchings and stabbings and shootings and bashings--that what emerges is not so much catharsis as shellshock. When it finally comes down to the two crippled warriors blearily staring each other down through the gunsmoke, it's almost a relief knowing one or both of them will finally die. The ending, a series of fast-forward dissolves reminiscent of "Zardoz" and others, is definitely a "downer," but at least exudes a kind of calmness.

Bottom line: Less would have been More here. The story we thought we saw outlined in the trailer would have been plenty involving, as was Henry Hill's story in "GoodFellas," and all the social commentary could have ensued from it. Too many characters jockey for prominence here. For a while it seems to be Amsterdam's movie, and then Bill the Butcher's, and then William "Boss" Tweed's and then someone else's. Someone like Robert Altman can pull off such a kaleidoscopic effort because an Altman flick is like a jazz tune, each element being a riff, but for the detail-obsessed Scorsese, each element gets the full orchestration treatment. He doesn't know how to soft-pedal anything. Insofar as he was working from a story by the visionary former film critic Jay Cocks, he would have been well served to remember a movie from 1955 called "Night of the Hunter" with a script by visionary former film critic James Agee that novice director Charles Laughton honed into an intimate little story over which the gloomy Depression stuff loomed without being obtrusive. "Gangs" cries out for this kind of intimacy. I'm profoundly sorry someone like Paul Schrader wasn't available to write the screenplay, but I guess he was busy with "Auto Focus."

Fine acting all around. Day-Lewis' melancholy monster is the character you'll remember most. Some have griped that Cameron Diaz looks too good, but hey, this is (the spirit of) Hollywood, get over it. (Does anyone remember Scorsese's "New York New York"? Even his indie stuff was stylized. He was never Mr. Realism.) Some have griped about the accents. Well, Di Caprio and Diaz were supposed to be "Irish-American" not Irish and anyway, who really knows how anybody sounded in the era before voice recordings? As always with Scorsese, there's effective editing and use of music and pull-no-punches violence both physical and verbal---and yeah, they did use the F-word even back then. And that camera work--I just need to mention one shot where we see a line of new Union soldiers marching along , the camera follows them backwards up to their boat and then up and back and over back to the docks where we see a coffin being unloaded from the same boat, pull back to see a line of coffins on the same dock--it's only a minute or two in length, it's visual poetry and it speaks volumes. God bless you, Martin, you are the ONLY director whose name alone will get me into a movie theater.

The novel "Andersonville" by MacKinlay Kantor has a hellish subplot about New York gangs from this same era. "And if they ever hang me, they'll have to hang me twice...."

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Directed to the hilt . . .

Author: DreyersOrdet from United States (Brooklyn)
5 December 2002

knifeblade and otherwise. I suppose it's too early for a review, but I'll give it a shot and let the more logorrheic shred this as they might. Let's get this demotic party started. Saw it at a DGA preview in NYC--the words "epic," "bloodbath," and "shambles" come to mind. And that's just getting into the screening.

Here are a few impressions from having seen the film, inconclusive, and in no real order:

1. Scorsese is very forthright about his debt to Italian neo-realism (Visconti et al.), and the film is directed within an inch of its life. Not quite as dense and sickening as Age of Innocence's endless homage to the feast scene at the end of The Leopard, but still. Dolly shot cuts to dolly shot cuts to a dolly shot that turns into a whip zoom of a fight. Virtuosic, but what for?

2. Daniel Herschel-Gordon-Lewis deserves a Nobel Prize for acting. Bill Cutting supplants any Hollywood baddie you care to name as far as complexity and character is concerned, including every adolescent's favorite cannibal analyst. Scorsese spoke after the screening, and likened the Bill the Butcher character to some Melville he had been reading. It's very appropriate, and I could only wish for more of it (Melville) in films.

3. The movie's narrative trajectory is a bit off, with a climax (The hallucinatory "Butcher's Apprentice" scene) about two-thirds into the film. It goes a bit haywire in the end, with the characters becoming tiny parts in the sweep of history (think Bertolucci's 1900, but with smaller flags), but it's still very enjoyable.

4. Oh yeah. Leo. Good enough. The Darwinian grief muscle between his brows was working overtime. A callow youth playing a callow youth (with a vendetta).

5. The pop music DOES NOT WORK HERE. Pax Vox.

6. The tapestry doesn't really hold as dramatic narrative, but it's a heartfelt work of film art.

7. The daguerrotypes of Matthew Brady or Nadar that are shown near the end, of Union casualties of the Civil War, were somehow more immediate in their feeling. By that I guess I mean less mediated, less theatrical, and after so much the film puts you through, to realize that it is just theater is a jarring thing. The pictures have more impact than the film.

8. Damn but I hope this sumbitch makes some money.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Not a good movie

Author: Victor Knudsen from Denmark
23 May 2016

My expectation for "Gangs of New York" was very high, and then it is frustrating to watch a movie, I didn't like. I had really hoped it was a fantastic movie, but it was yet another boring and long winded movie... The story itself was boring, but the acting was not bad. The acting is the one of the only reason why I give this movie 4 stars.

It started out pretty well, but after one and a half hour, it was getting really boring. It had it's moments, where there was intense and bloody scenes. The directing was not bad. Martin Scorsese have coordinated great action scenes, with lots of blood, and disgusting material. How they had created New York in the 1800's century was amazing! It felt like you where in New York at the time. The costumes which was used in it, was very realistic.

The performances was great from all the different characters. Daniel Day-Lewis does always a brilliant performance. And he did it again in this movie. There is a good chemistry between Leonardo DiCaprio and Daniel Day-Lewis. But It was not only thees two characters who did a good job. No, all the small roles, and all the extras, did an amazing job.

"Gangs of New York" is not a good movie. The story is boring and the movie is very long winded. I can't recommend this movie to anyone. I hope you liked my review!

"Gangs of New York" gets 4/10

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Vapid story

Author: meritcoba from Alkmaar
13 April 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

As a young kid Leonardo DiCaprio's sees his dad killed by Daniel Day- Lewis in a street squabble between immigrants of all feathers and the natives. Not the Indian natives mind you, but those white dudes born and raised in the US from fathers who stole the country from those other natives a few generations before, as opposed to all the immigrants that come over from Europe and want their share of prosperity there and then. Get of my property! So DiCaprio swears to do Day-Lewis in when he has grown up. The movie then fast forwards sixteen years into the future to come to a halt around the time of the civil war. We learn that Leonardo's desire to kill Day-Lewis has not dampened yet and he learned all kinds of usual skills that help progress him and society towards a better one.Of course not: he just knows how to kill people with a knife.

Perhaps the movie has some deeper meaning by showing how utter vapid the life of Di Caprio is as it is solely geared towards one violent goal. If he is to represent the Irish immigrants that came to eek out an existence it is lost on me. Blame me for not getting it.

The next two hours then might see interesting things about the historical background of the US in the late 19th century or even about the life of the immigrants, but nope.. it is all about a gang of criminals. The kind that plague society any time in any setting and is filled with thugs, hoodlums, scumbags, crooks, sadists and profiteers and anyone else preying on other people. But perhaps that was the message?The US is made by criminals?

It takes DiCaprio around two hours to do in Day-Lewis, which he could have done by gunning the guy down in the first 15 minutes, but nope, he needs to linger because of reasons. Moral ones. DiCaprio shows nothing redeemable and what I see is a person who has thrown away his life and sense by wanting to destroy another for nothing but revenge. No noble goal is guiding him. It is just bloody revenge.Get a life dude! There is some kind of romancing going on between him and Cameron Diaz, which is probably in there just to extend the movie even further for it feels like they just go through the motions. Diaz is a unlikable as the others, only she is female, so maybe that is her excuse.

For my life I can't figure out why anyone would sit through this movie that has such unlikable lurid characters. Perhaps the acting is great, but really, why would you watch two hours of bloody violence, an awkward romance and nothing else? There is another movie about gangs called the Godfather, which is also about a group of criminals and also about immigrants. It has drama, character building and other things going for it. This movie just can't compare to it. It is almost as if Scorsese wanted to redo the Godfather in another time, like a precursor, but simply lacks the quality of writing to help him tell the tale. Perhaps Scorsese might have given Shakespeare a try by turning it into a west side story kind of thing, but it has nothing of the love story, nothing of the sad tale. It is just a boring movie about one guy wanting to do in another and taking two hours to do it.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Banality at its best.

Author: Cinema_freak
30 March 2016

High production values mean zilch when the story barely holds your attention due to there being a multitude of chaotic characters and the environment being too very dull (and again, chaotic). This movie is probably the perfect example. The actors do their job well (at times looking like caricatures, but that's all right). The movie, though, on the whole, drags you down with boredom. The setting is pretty dull, too many people fill the screen, and there's violence, and pretty gratuitous violence at that. Martin Scorcese is among my favourite directors, and it's still hard to believe that he made this tripe, but then, people do make mistakes. He was probably doing some experimenting of some sort. That's the only conclusion I can make. I'm probably being generous giving this a four. Folks, watch it only if you have the patience. I'm no Roger Ebert, but my humble opinion is to give this one a pass.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

A messy yet thrilling historical epic

Author: tomgillespie2002 from United Kingdom
15 July 2012

After seeing his father 'Priest' (Liam Neeson) murdered at the hands of rival gang leader Bill 'the Butcher' Cutting (Daniel Day-Lewis) 16 years before, Amsterdam Vallon (Leonardo DiCaprio) returns to the Five Points in New York seeking revenge. Not much has changed since he fled, as tension remains between the 'Natives', the Irish immigrants, the Chinese and the blacks, only Bill now rules over with an iron fist, helping corrupt politician William 'Boss' Tweed (Jim Broadbent) gain votes. With the help of old friend Johnny (Henry Thomas), Amsterdam finds himself working his way up Bill's ranks, and after thwarting an assassination attempt on Bill, Amsterdam wonders if he did it out of his desire to kill Bill himself, or a growing loyalty to his new employer.

Following a lengthy book-to-screen adaptation, Scorsese's historical epic reached the cinema screens 23 years after he bought the rights to Herbert Asbury's book The Gangs of New York: An Informal History of the Underworld, amongst stories of studio fall-outs and arguments over final cut. It seems all those years of pondering did not allow Scorsese to fine-tune his vision, and although the film looks absolutely astonishing, the result is a bit of a mess, albeit one that never gets boring. Telling such a detailed historical account of America's fist- fights for power amongst mass immigration and racial tension could not have come at a more suitable time, as the 9/11 attacks occurred during production. But Scorsese chooses to cram this in with sub-plots of political corruption, a love-story between Amsterdam and thief Jenny (Cameron Diaz), the New York Draft Riots, and the central revenge story.

Of course, the film's ultimate saving grace is Daniel Day-Lewis, who gives a theatrical, sledgehammer performance as the one eyed-monster, and his scene where he sits talking to Amsterdam with an American flag draped over his shoulders is worth a thousand Academy Awards alone. Among the wave of dodgy Oirish accents, DiCaprio's isn't that bad, pulling of a credible performance which would jump-start his close relationship with Scorsese in the years after. Amsterdam is no regular hero, he's just as violent as the next thug, and one of the most interesting aspects of the film is how Scorsese tends not to show any race or group in a particularly good light. This is America's dirty beginnings after all, and boy is it bloody - heads are bludgeoned, cheeks are torn from their face - it's probably Scorsese's most gruesome since Casino (1995).

Second time around, Gangs of New York did seem admittedly better paced and more fleshed out (I thought I might even be watching a director's cut), with the political goings-on and the various sub-plots making much more sense. But the film is still a mess, and it progresses with a taste for almost glamorising the violence. The opening scene depicting the bloody fight between the Butcher's natives and the Priest's Dead Rabbits comes with slow-motion and electric guitar music, and this punk-ish approach causes it to clash with its historical setting. However, it looks staggering. The costumes, the huge sets, and the dirt and grit, has an epic David Lean quality, almost old-fashioned in a way. Yet this is a very modern film, and perhaps a more classical approach may have benefited the film which is ultimately unfocused, but effortlessly thrilling.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

One of my favorite movies

Author: ryan_hartig from United States
5 October 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Daniel Day-Lewis in this movie is one of the 3 most Likable Villains i can think of ever in cinema. He sits along side Darth Vader and Joker (Tim Burton's Batman) to make a trio of Villains I Truly love.

As for the Movie, Its basically Grand Theft Auto: The Movie except it takes place in the 19th century before cars were invented. Its like Ye-Old GTA and anyone who plays Video Games can see that I'm talking about if they watch this movie and try to think of the game as a least modern times.

Everything about this movie is awesome, This movie is a good example of why Top Hats should come back in to style. It also Improves with each viewing, I use to think The lead actress is such a bitch and shouldn't be in the movie, now i can't see the movie working without her and she became likable.

Its a Great Movie!!!! I don't need to spoil to much just watch it

I want to end with a MESSAGE TO EVERYONE that GAVE THIS MOVIE A 1 : You don't need to think this movie is good but for the love of GOD, LOWER YOUR F*KING STANDARDS. I watch about 2 to 3 movies a day and i can tell you that you have no idea what a horrible movie really is.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Braveheart meets Riverdance

Author: Animal_Hospital
23 April 2007

With some good old Dickensiana thrown in to heal the wounds.

From the very start, with the appearance of Liam Neeson in yet another benevolent hero role, the tone is set for the cliché overload. Instead of creating a Great Grassroot American Epic by drawing on slightly more expansive sources than his usual local themes, Scorcese falls into all the usual traps of the historical spectacle and swaps the narrative for the choreographed sketches interspersed with inept political commentary. Unfortunately, the ambitious allegory he aims for gets as confusing as his storytelling and the cultural stereotypes abound.

Good points are few and all to do with solid cast, particularly Jim Broadbent and gloriously hammy Day Lewis. David Hemmings is enjoyable in his Darth Vader cameo and a sufficient quota of erotic images are strategically placed to keep the audience from falling asleep in the third act.

However, the overall impression is that this might have worked out better set to Andrew Lloyd Weber score (even though the excessive use of pig carcasses and some of the mise en scene did recall Greenaway - hopefully, Philip Glass will make an opera out of this at some point).

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