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Movie Review: Gangs of New York

Story: New York, New York, its a helluva town. Director Martin Scorsese has been working on this project for about 30 years. It is a true labor of love and even though there are flaws in this epic tale, I loved it. It is loosely based on the 1928 book by Herbert Ashby.

It is 1862, New York City. More precisely it is the five points neighborhood (or what was five points). For those fans of Law and Order the courthouse steps, where DA Jack McCoy is usually seen descending, is located in the five points area. It is now the Foley Square area. Ironically, it is presently a bastion of law and order but the five points of 1862 was anything but that.

Our City's history is rich and violent. If you are not familiar with this period of time I don't think you will get as much out of the film as you could. It is the second year of the Civil War, cholera epidemics have been breaking out in the City, Boss Tweed is running the most corrupt Government we have even seen (I hope), Police and Fire Departments are not centralized, the draft has been started and unless you have $300 to buy your way out of it, you will be fighting in the Civil War and gangs of every ethnic group are running rampant downtown. (FYI - at this point in time Central Park was into it's fourth year of being built and there were animals already present at what is now, the Central Park Zoo.)

In the midst of this we get a story of revenge by the son of the slain hero, Vallon. The son returns 16 years after this father's murder to avenge his death at the hands of Mike, the butcher, Cutting. There is lots of fighting, incredible detail in the sets (the entire five points area was recreated on a sound stage in Rome to realistically, rather than digitally depict the area), costumes, rage, a love story thrown in the mix and some really good acting.

Do your self a favor - take the three hours over this holiday season and envelop yourself in this saga.

For background on the five points area, go to: Five Points


Acting: Daniel Day-Lewis is a tour de force. When he is on-screen he is simply riveting. In lesser hand this role as Bill, the Butcher would have come off as a cartoon. Bravo! Leonardo DiCaprio is a fine actor. He is intense, intelligent and I look forward to many more of his films. The supporting cast were all terrific.

Predilections: I like Martin Scorsese, Daniel Day-Lewis, Leonardo DiCaprio, period pieces and anything about New York.

Critters: Oh dear! Lots of critters who do not fare any better than the humans in this film. We see pigs, rats, dogs, chickens, rabbits and one elephant - yes, an elephant.

Food: Meat - as a day job, our protagonist, when not murdering people, is a butcher.

Visual Art: Old newspaper etchings which Scorsese used as inspiration for the scenery and costumes.

Blatant Product Placement: None.

Soundtrack: Stirring.

Opening Titles: There were no opening titles. We are lurched right into New York of 1846. All of the credits are at the end. It is worth sitting through (if you can stand sitting for another five minutes) to hear the sounds of contemporary New York City as the credits role.

Theater Audience: It was a jam-packed audience of very appreciative New Yorkers at a 10:00 AM show.

Squirm Scale: 2 - The opening scenes of violence take some getting used to. Knives and axes make me squirm.

Predictability Level: High.

Tissue Usage: Tears welled at the final photographic montage as contemporary New York is depicted.

Oscar Worthy: Yes. Daniel Day-Lewis, the sets and costumes should all get nods.

Nit Picking: It needed to be edited by at least 20 minutes. The romance between DiCaprio and Diaz was superfluous to the plot. The occasional narration was also unnecessary.

Big Screen or Rental: Big screen for sure. Daniel Day-Lewis is an incredible actor. Here are some of his other fabulous films to rent. The Boxer, The Crucible, In the Name of the Father, The Age of Innocence, My Left Foot, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, My Beautiful Laundrette and A Room With a View.

Length: An over the top 2 hours and 45 minutes.