Menu | Rating System | Guest Book

  Gangs of New York  
  Martin Scorsese  
  Leonardo DiCaprio, Daniel Day-Lewis, Cameron Diaz, Jim Broadbent, John C. Reilly, Henry Thomas, Brendan Gleeson  
Release Date:
Reviewed by:



Man, this is one long movie. This movie is so long, they could have made like three or four other movies out of it. Oh, that’s right, wait a minute….

They did.

First, there’s Hamlet (and not the user-friendly Mel Gibson one either, oh no, it’s more akin to Kenneth Branaugh’s "Deep Hurting version"), then there’s Far and Away, then we’ve got Glory, and we’ve also got, inexplicably, Mad Max: Beyond Thudnerdome thrown in for good measure.

Like my girlfriend said, “Doesn’t anybody in Hollywood remember how to edit?”

The movie takes place in New York City (not the nice parts) in 1863. Irish immigrants have been coming over by boat for decades, and the “native” population doesn’t like that they are trying to carve a piece of the country out for themselves. Conflict established.

The whole film just felt bloated to me. (Of course, this may be because we had just gone to Fuddrucker’s for dinner.) The plot felt bloated. The storyline was good for a ninety minute movie, but not 160+. And it’s not like it gets wrapped up in little details; it just goes on these weird tangents that don’t really add anything, following characters uptown, downtown, just so later when we see them for a brief thirty-second scene we’ll go “Oh, yeah, that’s the guy who came in earlier and did this completely pointless thing, but I’ve got a name to go with the face.” Let’s follow a character on a quick burgling tour of homes that contributes nothing to the plot. Let’s thrown in a Chinese festival that has no reason for existing whatsoever. My girlfriend noted that a good hour could have been cut out of this movie, and I agree. Apparently there were forty minutes of this movie left on the editing room floor. That blows my mind. Maybe Scorsese should start taking classes in music theory, because he’s apparently more interested in working in opera than movies.

The acting felt bloated. Daniel Day-Lewis does a really good job as Billy the Butcher, the leader of the “get-back-on-the-boats-you-dirty-bog-people” gang. He really makes Billy’s character believable, motivated, entertaining, and three-dimensional. Leonardo DiCaprio apparently gets paid by the glower, because that’s what he does for fully half this movie, which, as I have mentioned before, is really, really long. Cameron Diaz plays a character that just doesn’t fit into the world that Scorsese tries to make. Oh well, since I haven’t thought of her as attractive since The Mask, she at least is able to play off that “is she suffering from cholera?” look to her advantage in this movie. Jim Broadbent’s “Boss” Tweed is well done, though. But this movie is just chock-full of people filling up every frame of this movie with at least twenty faces. Okay, New York is a crowded place, you’ve made your point.

The set design felt bloated. I swear, there were times I was asking myself, “Did we slip into a dream sequence and I didn’t notice? And when the heck did New York get a huge system of caves?!” The movie is supposed to based in history, right? There’s a real New York, there were real gangs, there was a real influx of Irish, there were real tensions over that, there was real squalor and overcrowding, there was a real “Boss” Tweed and Horace Greely and a real Civil War and real draft riots, right? So why does so much of what I see on the screen require a rather hefty suspension of disbelief?

Even the “atmosphere” felt bloated. You know all the music that was excised from the book versions of The Lord of the Rings? It’s here. People pick up a fiddle and a drum when a boxing match starts, when the sun sets, when people get hung, whenever. Apparently in this world, you’re more likely to find yourself in the middle of a pick-up session than you are to step in horse poo.

I didn’t actively dislike this movie. If you like Daniel Day-Lewis, I’d go see it. His performance, and Jim Broadbent’s performance, are really excellent. The fullness of the world that is in the film is really masterful, if sometimes too much to swallow. Some of the lead characters come across as really sympathetic, in the sense that you can say, “Yeah, I would see how that would really mess someone up.” But after you’re done watching this, you’ll be asking, “Was it worth it to go through all that for that much story?”

Related Links:

Return to the top of this page. | Return to the Film Review menu.