Gangs of New York Reviews
Rotten Tomatoes critical consensus reads, "Though flawed, the sprawling, messy Gangs of New York is redeemed by impressive production design and Day-Lewis's electrifying performance. Roger Ebert praised the film but believed it fell short of Scorsese's best work, while his At the Movies co-star Richard Roeper called it a "masterpiece" and declared it a leading contender for Best Picture. Paul Clinton of CNN called the film "a grand American epic". In Variety, Todd McCarthy wrote that the film "falls somewhat short of great film status, but is still a richly impressive and densely realized work that bracingly opens the eye and mind to untaught aspects of American history." McCarthy singled out the meticulous attention to historical detail and production design for particular praise. Some critics were disappointed with the film, complaining that it fell well short of the hype surrounding it, that it tried to tackle too many themes without saying anything unique about them, and that the overall story was weak.
You cannot say that the story is not there, because it is truly an intriguing historical piece of story based on what happend in New York in the mid 1800s and the gang warfare, but the cinematic result is not that convincing in my point of view when re-seeing it again. "Gangs of New York" is unfortunately a very mixed and unbalanced film from veteran director Martin Scorsese. The scene structure and setup has this weird slappsticky touch to it which I think is unintentional, but ruins the film for me at least. Maybe partly due to the poor script and poor performances from particularly Leonardo DiCaprio and Cameron Diaz that is very much in focus in the script and they both struggle with the Irish accent as well. I personally think that Daniel Day-Lewis is the only one that gets away with his magnificent and electrifying interpretation of William "Bill the Butcher" Cutting. An Oscar worthy performance, but he never won the Oscar. The rest is a bit miscasted and not fully working in their roles despite names like Jim Broadbent, John C. Reilly, Liam Neeson and Brendan Gleeson in the film. Yet again the script is the problem as characters comes and goes and rememerges. And you donīt really care about any of them or Amsterdamīs wish for revenge. "Gangs of New York" is messy and just an average film, which is a shame as the historical foundation is so interesting.
Trivia: Most of the gangs mentioned by name were real 19th-century New York gangs. Bill "The Butcher" Cutting is based largely on real-life New York gang leader Bill Poole, who also was known as "The Butcher" and had much the same prestige as Daniel Day-Lewis' character.
The original cut of the film ran an hour longer.
When the film was first conceived in 1978, Martin Scorsese planned to cast Dan Aykroyd as Amsterdam Vallon and John Belushi as Bill 'The Butcher' Cutting. The project fell apart after Belushi died. A cast reshuffle had Mel Gibson as Amsterdam Vallon and Willem Dafoe as The Butcher.
Before the battle at the beginning of the film, several gangs introduce themselves. The Dead Rabbits, the Bowery Boys, and the Forty Thieves were real life New York gangs in the Five Points in the 1860s and 1870's. Their appearance, weapons of choice, and behavior are accurate. Many members became politicians later on.
The film was conceived in 1978 and intended to be produced in 1980 or 1981. It was shelved after the box-office failure of Heaven's Gate (1980) made studios wary of expensive, ambitious historical dramas.
This epic historical film pays close attention to detail but at nearly 3 hours is too long. There are too many themes, many of which are poorly explored, resulting in the film changing direction often and suddenly. I also felt that many of the scenes and sets felt more like I was watching a stage production than a movie.
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