of New York
review by Jon Waterman
New York’s Five Points are ruled by gangs. In this corner,
wearing the blue bands around the hats, the “Natives.”
In the opposite corner, wearing the red striped clothes, the “Irish
Immigrants.” Both sides wait for my signal and come out axes
and knives swinging. Let’s get ready to gang war!
Leading the natives (meaning immigrants in town long enough to call themselves
natives and not meaning native Americans/Indians), is the man with the
eagle eye (literally), William “The Butcher” Cutting.
In the spotlight for the Irish workers, is Priest Vallon. Who will
win this battle of the titans? Which gang will slaughter the other
so they can rightfully call New York theirs?
Wow, is this film good. Nearly everything is top-notch. A
wonderful sight from the opening frame. I’ll try to explain.
Martin Scorsese knows how to put quality on the screen. The production
value of this picture is intensely superior to any of the summer blockbusters.
The fight scenes started off somewhat tame, but eventually got rolling
into a free-for-all bloodbath that was a sight to behold. However,
the editing made that a task within itself sometimes. Quick cuts
and sound effects don’t always make for a good battle. “Gangs”
provides plenty of gore, so don’t fret.
One really couldn’t ask for better ensemble acting in a picture.
Daniel Day-Lewis (as the Butcher) simply astounded at every character
turn. His mustached grimace speaks volumes. His raspy voice
emphasizes every point made with his eyes (or eye). Leo DiC (as
Priest’s son, Amsterdam) knocks the ball out of the park, too.
He grasps the hurt and the plots for revenge and holds on tight as he
suppresses them. Everything said and done contains the duality of
his character. Other noteworthy performances belong to Jim Broadbent
(as Boss Tweed), John C. Reilly, and Brendan Gleeson. Cameron Diaz
has yet to impress me.
The storyline isn’t all about fighting. It’s about political
corruption and social constructs. It’s about revenge.
It’s about honor and pride and ownership. All of this is made
quite clear in the incredible script by Jay Cocks, Steven Zaillian and
Kenneth Lonergan. The dialogue all makes sense. They keep
the focus of the piece close at hand, even when they seem to be straying
Anyways, that’s why I like it. My beefs with the picture:
The score is off-putting with its modern orchestration, but the emotional
impact still seems to resonate. Also, the love story makes absolutely
no sense. I seriously doubt that one night with Leo would make her
fall in love with him, especially considering the kind of lifestyle she
so gallantly enjoys. Lastly, the ending seemed pretty unsatisfactory.
The movie built to a certain climax and then just tapered off.
The goods outweigh the bads, so put on your top hats and your respective
gang color and root for your favorite team.
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