A film with very high highs—but also one that has multiple 15-20 minute stretches where we are watching a really nondescript (but handsome) epic. The ultimate result is a very strong film that would be something to shout about, if it came from virtually anyone besides Martin Scorsese. But with Scorsese at the helm, the crew and cast (DDL, DiCaprio but also an excellent ensemble)- it’s a slight disappointment
Leo provides a voice-over. I don’t think we need it.
Powerful opening: St. Michael in the text, “casting Satan out of paradise” in the text. Sin and Scorsese. Howard Shore’s whistle as we get a great tracking shot of the Irish prepping for battle, the Virgin Mary is on the wall and then we kick the door open like John Ford’s The Searchers
Daniel Day-Lewis’ performance as Bill the Butcher. Holy hell. He’s fire— levitating here, chewing scenes and blowing the other actors off the screen (I can’t even tell if DiCaprio is bad here (I don’t think so), miscast (maybe), or just can’t swim as fast as DDL (absolutely). Bill has the greasy hair, the eye.
It’s right there with Roma or Tarantino’s Hollywood of 1969 in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood in terms of the recreation of a world—the detail of the 5 points of New York.
Like Cape Fear from Scorsese in 1991 (but before the Heath Ledger shot in Brokeback in 2005) a fantastic shot of DDL in front of fireworks.
In 2002 Jim Broadbent and John C. Reilly are about as good as it gets to fill out an ensemble. Broadbent is on great run going back to Topsy-Turvy (1999-2000) and Moulin Rouge! And Reilly was in 3 films nominated in 2002 (when they only did 5) including Chicago and The Hours
4/4 from Travers “Gangs of New York is something better than perfect: It’s thrillingly alive”… “The film opens with an extraordinary scene set beneath tenements, in catacombs carved out of the Manhattan rock.”
Ebert – “The vivid achievement of Scorsese’s film is to visualize this history and people it with characters of Dickensian grotesquerie. Bill the Butcher is one of the great characters in modern movies……I wrote recently of “Goodfellas” that “the film has the headlong momentum of a storyteller who knows he has a good one to share.” I didn’t feel that here……Scorsese is probably our greatest active American director (Robert Altman is another candidate), and he has given us so many masterpieces that this film, which from another director would be a triumph, arrives as a more measured accomplishment”
Praise for the use of the unique 1860’s vernacular. With the production design and DDL we’re going for a lot of authenticity here. The lingo includes “chiseler” and “sand” and “Turtledove” and all the names of the gangs in the world.
Another study of gang culture from Scorsese- Bill is Vito Corleone—getting tribute
Great split diopter shot of Leo on the trolley car with Cameron Diaz in the background
There’s a touch of Scorsese’s trademark red (hell) and green (eden) work here- Diaz is always in green but not enough to carry this out visually. This isn’t The Age of Innocence.
Like Gone with the Wind– Gangs successfully tells the intimate story of the 3-4 main leads in front of a absorbing broader historical/political backdrop. We have the Civil War draft, the racism and immigrants. There’s a magnificent tracking shot following people as they get off the boat, go onto another one as soldiers (after being forced to sign up) and then the Crane picks up right as a bunch of wooden caskets are being moved off that same point
DDL has a half dozen dazzling monologues and scenes. The one in the chair wrapped in the American flag may be the best. There are a lot of valid complaints about the overall screenplay but here it’s has good dialogue. Giving an actor like this lines like “I never had a son”. “This was a great man” and “Civilization is crumbling” is gold.
Howard Shore in his prime. He did better work with Cronenberg and this is in the middle of his great Lord of the Rings run but still- a good score
A massive epic, extras, sets,
Impressive imagery- the shots of the natives and Irish twin portrait shots in red and blue colors