Thursday, 18 November 2010

Film Review: GANGS OF NEW YORK (2002)

Director: Martin Scorsese
Running time: 160 mins (approx)
Certification (UK): 18

UK release date: 9th January 2003

Watched on DVD Thursday 18th November 2010.


This film has been lurking in my DVD collection for some time now. The trouble is, it’s hard to find the nigh on three hours required to watch this epic. Fortunately, having been ordered to take my holidays, or lose them, a day off provided the necessary timeslot. It’s a movie with tremendous scope that shows a side of New York history I wasn’t aware of. Although not perfect, it still has a lot going for it. But more of that later, here’s a very brief summary first (summary haters please assume the crash position for the next paragraph).

We begin in 1846 at the Five Points, a district of New York notorious for its poverty and for its gangs. A clash between two gangs, the ‘Native Americans’, predominantly white, who were born there and the ‘Dead Rabbits’, predominantly Irish immigrants, leaves the leader of the ‘Dead Rabbits’, ‘Priest’ Vallon, dead. His killer, leader of the other gang, Bill ‘The Butcher’ Cutting shows mercy on his young son and sends him away. Sixteen years later the son, Amsterdam Vallon, returns to the Five Points seeking revenge, but prepared to bide his time. He decides to get close to Cutting and manages to do so with some great cunning. He meets Jenny Everdeane and falls for her, but she is indebted to Cutting and so Amsterdam, at first, spurns her, but we all know that isn’t going to last. This is all told against the backdrop of the American Civil War and President Lincoln’s plans to bring in a draft on the citizens of New York. There is a lot of feeling about this and the citizens are getting restless. Also, a politician, William ‘Boss’ Tweed is always trying to buy the votes of the residents of the Five Points by siding with Cutting on certain matters, a situation that doesn’t go down to well with certain factions. Now, having infiltrated Cutting’s inner circle, it’s time for Amsterdam to strike… and it’s here I’ll leave my short summary… what? You didn’t really expect me to give the ending away did you?... Shame.

This is a beautifully made film; everything from the cinematography to the set design to the costumes is all really well done. Some great performances too, especially from Daniel Day-Lewis, as Bill ‘The Butcher’ Cutting, it is a pleasure to watch every scene he is in. Also praiseworthy are; Leonardo DiCaprio as Amsterdam Vallon and Cameron Diaz as Jenny Everdeane. Honourable mentions also go to; Jim Broadbent as William ‘Boss’ Tweed, John C. Reilly as Happy Jack Mulraney and Henry Thomas as Johnny Sirocco.

I was afraid at first that this was going to be just another of those damned “America loves everything Irish” kind of movies, which I totally despise! Fortunately Scorsese knows better than that and what we get is a more balanced view of things (for a change). The film is a little too long for my liking and I found it quite easy to draw parallels with the likes of ‘Goodfellas’ and ‘Once Upon A Time in America’, but I can forgive that. It is enthralling throughout and a great visual spectacle, if just for the height of the top hats and Daniel Day-Lewis’s moustache and trousers! They are tremendous! Over all, if you can make the time… Highly recommended.

My score: 7.6/10

IMDb Site:
Official Site:

1 comment:

Jack L said...

Good review, I fully agree with you.

I thought Diaz was totally miscast, and although DiCaprio is good he was slightly miscast as well.
It's very entertaining but I thought it could have been better.