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41 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars True Or Not, It's Still A Great Film
There's been a lot of flack directed at Gangs of New York for it's supposed "Historical Inaccuracies". I can't add anything except this: If you go to the movies for your History Lessons, something's wrong with you. If you go to be entertained, Gangs of New York is just the ticket.
Based on Herbert Asbury's turn-of-the-century book, Gangs tells the epic tale of the...
Published on January 2, 2003 by Daniel V. Reilly

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33 of 40 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Scorsese's compromised epic
Gangs of New York has a lot of problems. (1) Cameron Diaz and Leonardo DiCaprio are miscast. They have no chemistry, Diaz' role is confusing, and DiCaprio appears to be stoned in almost every scene. (2) Their love affair is a needless distraction from the revenge plot. (3) The set design is amazing, but it seems to take up too much of the screen. It's anything but subtle...
Published on November 8, 2003 by SPM


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41 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars True Or Not, It's Still A Great Film, January 2, 2003
By 
Daniel V. Reilly (Upstate New York, United States) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
There's been a lot of flack directed at Gangs of New York for it's supposed "Historical Inaccuracies". I can't add anything except this: If you go to the movies for your History Lessons, something's wrong with you. If you go to be entertained, Gangs of New York is just the ticket.
Based on Herbert Asbury's turn-of-the-century book, Gangs tells the epic tale of the Five-Points section of Manhattan, and the colorful gangs (The Dead Rabbits, The Plug Uglies, The Swamp Angels, The Nativists, etc.) that ruled her mean streets.
Leonardo DiCaprio plays Amsterdam Vallon, who witnessed his father "Priest" Vallon 's murder at the hands of Bill "The Butcher" (The amazing Daniel Day-Lewis) as a child, and in typical movie fashion, swore revenge. Amsterdam is released from reform school sixteen years later, and heads off to kill the Butcher. Along the way we get the usual romance, with Cameron Diaz acquitting herself well as pickpocket Jenny Everdeane, despite the fact that she isn't really given much to do in the film.
Like other Historical epics (Titanic, Pearl Harbor, Saving Private Ryan), Gangs takes the central topic and places fictional characters into the action. Although there really WAS a Bill the Butcher, he died well before the draft riots that end the film. Director Martin Scorcese deserves high marks for bringing a piece of seldom-seen American history to the screen. Despite it's nearly three-hour length, Scorcese keeps the film moving briskly along, and the opening battle, an exquisitely grotesque symphony of violence, is worth the price of admission alone. Only Scorcese could make such savagery seem beautiful...
The performances are all good, but Daniel Day-Lewis is a revelation as the charming and deadly Bill the Butcher; He blows everyone else off the screen. If he doesn't win Best Actor at The Academy Awards it'll be another black eye to their selection process. Hopefully Scorcese will get some long overdue recognition as well. While Gangs isn't his best film, it's still head-and-shoulders above most of 2002's movies. Highly recommended.
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153 of 182 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Where is the director's cut?!?!, May 27, 2003
One of the big controversies surrounding this film was that Martin Scorcese was forced to cut nearly an hour of footage from his final vision in order to get the studio to release it. That's understandable, as not many people will be willing to sit through a 4 hour movie in theatres. So with the release of it on DVD, we should get the complete version, right? Well... it doesn't seem so.
The details on this DVD mention nothing about extra footage. Isn't one of the benefits of the DVD format that we get to see what the director intended before politics and marketing step in? I for one would like to see the COMPLETE movie, the movie that Scorcese wanted to make, rather than the movie which was released, even though that movie was quite good.
I have a feeling that the studio is just doing the usual DVD scam of releasing the theatrical version as soon as possible to catch people while they are still hyped on this movie from the theatrical release and post-Oscar boost. After a few months, hopefully they will release a director's cut, causing many people to go back and buy the DVD a second time. I, for one, will wait as long as it takes until the full version comes out. I'm sick of getting scammed by these studios into buying one version, and then seeing a "special edition" with all sorts of extras come out a few months later. Not gonna happen this time, buddy-boy.
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41 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Glorious Redemption, March 3, 2010
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Every issue with the original Blu-ray release of this movie has been fixed, moving it from one of the worst releases on the format to one of the very best. This film now looks and sounds spectacular on Blu-ray and is a must own for any fan.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Scorsese's "Gangs of New York"--exceptionally good looking remaster, August 11, 2010
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This remastered edition corrects the image quality issues of the previous edition which had heavy handed use of DNR (digital noise reduction)often eliminating the grain and detail at the same time. Colors pop and detail is remarkably sharp throughout. Audio sounds terrific as well although the previous edition sounded quite good as well. Aside from some minor ringing (particularly when characters are against a white background--doesn't happen too often in this movie though), the presentation looks terrific.

We get all the previous special features from the previous edition as well including Martin Scorsese's informed and entertaining commentary track. The special features are still in standard definnition but that's a minor issue--I'm just happy that Touchstone/Disney/Miramax was willing to go back and correct the error with the original mastering.

You can tell the remastered vs. the previous edition because the cover picture with the main actors is smaller and bordered by black. The Blu-ray holders also have a sticker on the cover indicating its been remastered.

For those interested in the plot--Set in New York in 1846 (during the height of the draft for the Civil War which contributed to a massive violent revolt by the poor which plays a part in the film as well), Leonardo Dicaprio plays Amsterdam Vallon who returns to lower Manhattan seeking revenge against Bill "the Butcher" (Daniel Day Lewis)who killed his father in a confrontation between their respective gangs. To kill Bill Vallon must become close to Bill and infiltrate his gang earning his trust in the process but Vallon finds that his vendetta against Bill gets lost in a much larger conflict between the various gangs of New York to run the city.Amsterdam feels conflicted particularly when Bill takes him under his wing and gains a grudging respect for him despite his brutality. Daniel Day Lewis gives a superb performance as Bill and although Dicaprio's accent varies quite a bit his emotionally complex, conflicted performance adds to the drama as well. When I first saw the film I was surprised at just how good Cameron Diaz could be as an actress as well.

A well made flawed film, "Gangs of New York" manages to be involving and director Martin Scorsese crates a vivid recreation of New York before the turn of the century with detailed recreations of teh hovels and mud strewn streets, The film suffers because of a shortened running time (and it runs around 2 hours and 40 minutes but could have easily run an additional 20-30 minutes giving us more background on the conflict between Vallon's father who led the Dead Rabbits and Bill. Then again the action would have taken longer to get to and our main story focusing on the conflict between Vallon and Bill would have taken quite a bit longer to start as well.

Even Scorsese's flawed films are stronger than most other directors great films and the ambition of "Gangs of New York" is welcome even if the film can't deliver on all of Scorsese's points. Recommended.
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33 of 40 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Scorsese's compromised epic, November 8, 2003
Gangs of New York has a lot of problems. (1) Cameron Diaz and Leonardo DiCaprio are miscast. They have no chemistry, Diaz' role is confusing, and DiCaprio appears to be stoned in almost every scene. (2) Their love affair is a needless distraction from the revenge plot. (3) The set design is amazing, but it seems to take up too much of the screen. It's anything but subtle. In Scorsese's other films, he creates a world to surround the characters, but he doesn't call attention to it. (4) The movie is split over two DVDs. There's no reason for it. I have other films of the same length on a single disc. The extras could have been placed on the second disc, and the entire film on the first. (5) There was a lot of controversy about the production of this film, including cost overruns and fights with the producer. That story is not mentioned anywhere on the two DVDs. It's a whitewash.
And then there are the good things. (1) Jim Broadbent and Daniel Day-Lewis are great. I could watch those two guys all day. They work the scenery, they work the costumes, and they know when to overdo it to keep the story fun and colorful. (2) All of the historical moments are well-done. Scorsese has a knack for cutting away from the plot, giving you background, and then getting back to his characters. The best example is Casino, whre he spent the first 45 minutes teaching you about Las Vegas. Here, he shows you everything from immigration to racism to corrupt politics and draft fees. (3) The movie is packed with stunning shots, such as the moment at the beginning when Bill's gang silently emerges from between the houses to form a mob in the snow. Or the climax, with cannons firing into the city and looters storming the mansions. (4) Scorsese's audio track is worth listening to.
Overall, Gangs of New York is a "chocolate cheeseburger" --- a movie that tries to please everyone and ends up pleasing no one. Scorsese should have edited it mercilessly, cutting out the romance (as much as possible) and paring it down to an ultra-violent 2-hour epic. He would have lost a few casual viewers, but they ended up offended or bored anyway. I recommend this to anyone who likes Scorsese movies, simply because its an important part of his body of work. But for those of you who stayed away because you thought you wouldn't like it --- well, you probably made the right choice.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Major Disappointment from a Major Director, December 27, 2003
By A Customer
This material would seem to be perfectly suited to Scorsese's talents. Unfortunately, the result is a big disappointing mess. Set in the slums of lower Manhattan during the early 1860s, the movie is supposed to chronicle the gang warfare that plagued mid-19th-century New York City and the political machinations of Boss Tweed, who played hardball ethnic politics and cleverly pitted the Catholic immigrants against the native Protestants. As I said, right up Scorsese's alley.
Instead what we get is a tired, trite, overlong cornball melodrama about a young man (an out-of-place Leonardo DiCaprio) attempting to avenge the murder of his father by infiltrating a rival gang and "befriending" the leader (an over-the-top Daniel Day Lewis) who killed Leo's dad. Leo waits (and waits, and waits...) for just the right moment to strike. But complications ensue when fatherless Leo begins to develop filial feelings for his nemesis. Will Leo ever work up the nerve to slaughter his new surrogate dad? Will new surrogate dad find out Leo's secret? Meanwhile, the Civil War and the New York City Draft Riots are brewing.
Although the costumes and set designs are impressive, and some of the scenes are spectacularly shot, the movie bogs down again and again in fifth-hand melodramatic plot devices and outrageous ham acting. Particularly egregious is the usually outstanding Daniel Day Lewis (as the arch-villain Bill the Butcher), who must have decided that this movie was so ridiculous anyway that the only thing to do was stand out by giving us the hammiest damn performance ever put on celluloid. Twirling his waxed moustachio, sporting a garish glass eye, and chopping up everything in sight with his trademark meat clever, Lewis is funny as hell, but not remotely credible.
The ending is so bogus and strained, it would qualify the movie as pure camp, were it not for the offensive way it turns the horrendous 1863 race riots and mass lynchings into just another plot point--and a particularly ludicrous one at that.
What a missed opportunity by a great director! The growing pains of 19th-century New York City is a great subject, and the story of Tammany Hall and the Draft Riots is one of the most interesting and important in American history. Scorsese would seem to be the ideal director to tell this story. But he decided instead to make a turgid, corny, anachronistic, flashy (and flaccid) three-hour music video & costume drama. What a waste!
If you want to see a good movie about generations of gang warfare in the slums, check out the 2003 Brazilian film "City of God." It should be coming out on DVD soon. It's what "Gangs of New York" should have been.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Almost (Not Quite) Cohesive, June 26, 2003
Prior to seeing it for the first time in a theatre, I knew that this film had been a project which had taken director Scorcese about 30 years to complete; also, that a replication of much of mid-19th century New York City (notably the Five Points area) had been created within the vast Cinecitta studio complex in Rome. After sitting through another viewing of this 168-minute film, my thoughts and feelings remained mixed. Pluses? Daniel Day-Lewis' portrayal of William ("Bill the Butcher") Cutting, the various sets which seem like archival photos brought to life, the creation of an ongoing (almost subliminal) sense of menace, and the skillful use of historical material concerning political corruption, emergence of the so-called "melting pot" culture, Civil War conscription, race riots, etc. This context helps to explain the nature and extent of the bloody hostilities between Cutting's Native Americans and Vallon's Dead Rabbits.
However, this film also has a few weaknesses which include what I view as DiCaprio's hollow portrayal of Priest Vallon's son, Amsterdam, who returns to avenge his father's murder after years of severe abuse in an orphanage. Scorcese's preparations for Amsterdam's final, inevitable confrontation with Cutting should have been as sharp as one of "Bill the Butcher's" carving knives...but aren't. Stated another way, the pacing of the narrative seems to me disjointed and thus much less effective than it could and should have been. Also, I think some of the scenes are too busy, too crowded for no apparent reason. I'm not referring to street scenes which are generally handled very well.
One last opinion, more a quibble than a complaint: I wish Scorcese had done more with Neeson's character prior to his death which occurs so early in the film just as I wish Shakespeare had revealed just a bit more about Hamlet's father. I can easily understand why Cutting has always been the unquestioned leader of the Native Americans. Ironically, when reminiscing about Priest Vallon, "Bill the Butcher" seems to think more of him than Scorcese does....certainly more of him than Scorcese allows his audience to.
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44 of 58 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars First 2/3s of movie magnificient last 1/3 falls apart, July 4, 2003
Overshadowed by the controversy over lobbying for Academy Award nominations, Gangs of New York is a visually stunning but flawed minor classic from director Martin Scorsese. The film concerns a forgotten period in New York City's history when a variety of gangs controlled the five corners area. Corrupt politicians, the draft (for the Civil War) and a massive wave of immigrants created a turbulent environment. A huge anti-immigrant campaign helped fuel the many conflicts between the various gangs. Scorsese also incorporates a real riot that occuried during this time. The riot required army troops to come in and prevent further looting and murder.
The basic story focuses on the conflict between two rival groups--the Natives led by Bill "the Butcher" and the Dead Rabbits an Irish immigrant group led by "Priest" (Liam Neeson). Their conflict leads to the death of Priest witnesses by his young son Amsterdam (later played by Leonard DiCaprio). The Butcher arranges to have the child sent to a Reform school where he's raised by Catholic Priests.
Upon his release Amsterdam goes looking for Bill with revenge his primary goal. What Amsterdam finds is a changed world; the Natives control much of the corrupt police force and politicians in the five corners area. Bill is well regarded and, in fact, many of the Priest's old gang members work for Bill now. Amsterdam eventually meets Bill and is treated like a son by Bill. This creates a considerable conflict as Amsterdam has developed a gruding respect for the terrifying Butcher. His life is further complicated when he becomes involved with a woman (Cameron Diaz)who was saved by the Butcher as a child.
The production design is stunning capturing a time in New York's history that had been long forgotten by many of its residents. The shacks, stores and buildings that make up the five corners area have an authentic appearence to them. Scorsese and his production designer Dante Ferretti manage to make the audience not only feel the environment but taste and smell it as well. Director of photography Michael Ballhaus lighting brings a rustic feel to the environment.
The major problem with the film is the screenplay. It clearly passed through a number of hands besides the three screenwriters credited (Jay Cocks, Steven Zallian and Kenneth Lonergon). The first two-thirds of the film are classic Scorsese; there's a vibrantcy to the script missing from the last third. That's the problem with the film--it's two-thirds a classic. During the last act the film literally falls apart and is very narratively disjoined. It's clear that Scorsese had a much longer cut of the film in mind; there's a lot that appears to be missing from the film cut, no doubt, to make the already long running time (167 minutes) functional for a movie theater. Since this is the DVD edition, I'm surprised that Scorsese didn't go back and recut the film adding extended dramatic sequences that might have made the last third a stronger act.
The acting by Daniel Day-Lewis (completely immersed in his character of Bill) is stunning. His falt, slightly rounded New York accent is as much a part of the character as can be imagined. The rest of the cast give varying performances with varying success when it comes to their Irish accents. Leonard DiCaprio makes a valient attempt to equal Day-Lewis but ultimately comes up slightly short of the perfection of Day-Lewis' performance. Still, he's believable in the role and manages to command your attention when he's on screen.
Cameron Diaz also makes a game attempt with her role. Her character really doesn't come to life until the middle of the film. Henry Thomas (E.T., Psycho 4) gives a memorable and solid performance as Amsterdam's friend. It's a role that could have been pushed into the shadows by the lead character but Thomas invests his character with a quiet, powerful presence.
Scorsese's direction is sharp and it's clear he's thought long and hard about how he wanted to present this picture. His confident direction keeps the momentum of the film from dragging and, until the last act, he knows exactly where he's going and what he's trying to achieve.
The DVD transfer is, generally, exceptional. The picture is nearly flawless with few of the digital compression problems that have marred similarly epic films. There's virtually no analog artifacts and the print used here is crisp, clear and clean. The 5.1 sound mix and is also representative of what you might have heard in the theater. There were some problems with the discs. The first disc ends rather abruptly. There's a scene on the second disc where the music is mixed a bit too loud for the sequence and there appears to be other sounds leaking through the mix that shouldn't be there.
The extras are profuse. There's a nicely done costume design feaurette and a sequence where the audience can explore the sets for the film. Additionally, there's a documentary (originally shown on The Discovery Channel)that focuses on this little known time from New York's past. It's much more than a glorified promo for the film. Scorsese's commentary is, shall we, say effusive and interesting. His intelligent comments and observations make the film come alive a second time. While I like U2, I could have done without the music video and would much rather have seen an a couple of interviews with Day-Lewis and other cast members on their craft.
While it's a flawed film, Gangs of New York captures Scorsese in top form throughout most of the film. If the film doesn't hang together the way it should, it's probably due to the fact that Scorsese had to trim more from the film than he would have liked (how else to explain Neeson's appearence in what amounts to a glorified cameo?). Scorsese takes considerable risk in telling the type of story that isn't in vogue with Hollywood any longer. Gangs is an intelligent, well acted drama with a larger than life performance by Daniel Day-Lewis that makes up for some of the films shortcomings. I'd suggest renting it first and, if you like it, move on to purchasing it.
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44 of 58 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, May 6, 2004
I was disappointed by this movie. Scorsese is one of the best American directors alive, and the story of New York City in the 1860s is a great subject, exactly the sort of thing Scorsese ought to excel at.
But the whole project goes weirdly awry. The plot is trite and silly, the sort of boring revenge drama we've seen a hundred times before: It doesn't shed any light at all on the subject of New York in the 19th century. The cast is extremely uneven: Di Caprio is simply not credible as a prison-hardened gang leader (he's still a soft, spoiled, 20th century pipsqueak), Day-Lewis as the villain is so over-the-top he's funny (maybe he meant it to be that way?), and the great Liam Neeson is wasted (literally) in a brief appearance as Di Caprio's dad. Only the smaller roles are well cast, particularly Jim Broadbent as Boss Tweed. (And by the way, what was the Vampire Woman doing in the movie? She seems to have wandered in from the set of Road Warrior.)
Worst of all, though, was the tone of the movie. It was completely off. From the acid-rock electric guitar solo that plays over the big fight scene at the beginning, to the pointlessly flashy visuals (it looked like Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge), to the ridiculous mischaracterization of race relations between Irish immigrant gangs and the blacks, to the offensive use of the Draft Riots (really a huge race riot) as mere background to a phony, anti-climactic duel between protagonist and antagonist--everything was just so weirdly conceived and utterly tone deaf.
What went wrong? Scorsese seemed like the perfect choice to direct this movie, but he blew a great opportunity to tell a great story. Maybe he has no feel for any time period other than his own. What a shame.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars How did this film get nominated for anything?, December 16, 2003
By 
mcv "zoinx!" (North Carolina) - See all my reviews
With this cast and under Scorsese's direction, this film could have been great. It could have been a compelling period piece drawn on a sub-culture little known to Americans. There could have been tremendous insight into the struggles of an environment that contributes to gang life with subtle parallels to contemporary culture.
Instead this is a 3 hour rock video peppered with historical facts made questionable by the historical hyperbole. The characters are flat and cartoon-like. Daniel Day Lewis became so immersed in his character that he lost touch with reality. DiCapprio's "on again, off again" Irish accent was laughable. Who was that cat woman who cut off ears? Give me a break! Frankly I wanted them all to die within the first hour, but thank you for the gratuitous sex and orgy scenes.
For a movie that could have been so intelligent, it debased itself by appealing to the lowest common denominator. I wonder if Scorsese has ever seen "Mean Streets" or "Taxi Driver". He could have learned something from them.
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Gangs Of New York
Gangs Of New York by Martin Scorsese (DVD - 2011)
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