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Overall Rating
3.46

Awesome: 27.23%
Worth A Look28.17%
Average: 21.6%
Pretty Bad: 9.39%
Total Crap: 13.62%

9 reviews, 159 user ratings


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Gangs of New York
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by MP Bartley

"To quote The Strokes: Is This It?"
3 stars

This is what Scorcese's 25 year long burning ambition has been? The film he simply had to make before even contemplating anything else? This is the once-in-a-lifetime masterpiece from possibly the greatest ever director? It's not bad, it's handsome, brutal and occassionally great. But we do not expect 'occassionally great' from Scorcese. We don't want 'pretty good'. We want more.

'Gangs of New York' has been on Scorcese's backburner for 25 years now. Telling the story of rival gangs beating merry hell out of each other in the 19th Century, it focuses on Amsterdam Vallon (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his mission to avenge his fathers death (Liam Neeson) at the hands of Bill 'The Butcher' Cutting (Daniel Day-Lewis).

After leaving the Five Points district for 16 years to be taught, Amsterdam returns to find Bill in total control of the district. The local Governor (Jim Broadbent) is in the palm of his hand, all the gangs work for him including Amsterdam's old childhood friend Johnny (Henry Thomas), pickpocket Jenny (Cameron Diaz) and the local police, led by Jack (John C Reilly).

Amsterdam eventually comes under the wing of Bill and begins to find his loyalties divided, while the spectre of Civil War looms ever closer to New York.

With 25 years of planning behind it you would expect nothing less than perfection with a lifetimes care and attention behind it. But 'Gangs' feels horribly sloppy for a lot of its time. It's as if Scorcese was so desperate to get the damn thing made, he just made it any way he could, without paying attention to what he really wanted to say.

Take the character of Jenny. It reeks of a director compromising his vision to enable his film to be made, by letting a totally superflous love angle to sneak in. Any of Diaz's scenes could be cut and the film wouldn't be harmed. She only serves to give a half-hearted attempt at portraying a love triangle between her, Amsterdam and Vallon. But half-hearted it is. There's no dramatic tension or conflict about this situation. It just lies there inert hoping it will satisfy the 16 year old girls who've sneaked in.

This lack of focus is prevalent throughout. Who or what is the story about? Is it about vengeance and redemption? Is it about a simple conflict between two men? If so, Scorcese seems to want to make an awful lot of points about the infiltration of the Irish into America, the liberation of the blacks and the fact that the rich could buy their way out of conscription.

But again these are only half-hearted attempts at a historical context. If you asked me what the social and political situation was in New York I wouldn't have a clue, because we're not informed.

Everything feels too rushed or ill thought out. There's very little dynamics in Scorcese's direction. Apart from an outstanding opening shot revealing the size of the gangs, there's little that shouts out 'Scorcese'. If this was made by say, Brett Ratner for example, then it would be lauded as the first steps onto greatness, if a little muddled. But it isn't, it's the man behind 'Goodfellas', 'Raging Bull' and 'Taxi Driver' and as such it feels flat.

It's all very pretty and nice to look at, but it's too nice. There's absolutely no sense of the age these people lived in and no atmosphere or flavour of the period. Scorcese could do a lot worse then watching 'City of God' and seeing how a real slum condition is captured.
It feels like it would work better as TV miniseries rather than trying to squeeze in a love story, a hate story, and the entire social and political issues of the day into just under three hours.

If Scorcese isn't sure whose story he wants to tell (and you suspect he did know what story he wanted to tell, but was hamstrung by the studio. There's surely a four hour Directors Cut crying out for release here), then the audience is all at sea trying to cotton on to some sort of structure. This isn't helped by some bad stylistic choices. It doesn't play like the gritty, bloody historical epic it should, it's like a 19th century 'Goodfellas' full of flash. But it doesn't work. The voiceover, so effective in 'Goodfellas' is utterly redundant here, the opening battle scene, while bloody, is undercut by U2's theme song kicking in inappropriately and the script is litterd with cliches (the mortally injured character asking his best friend to end his pain quickly for example). And CGI elephants?!

Thinking about all the above points would make it seem like this is a one-star dud all the way. But it isn't. The production is lavish enough, but what really elevates it a couple of notches is some superlative acting. DiCaprio is good in his role, but looks too often like he's confused as to whether he's portraying a romantic lead or a man of action. I've mentioned that Diaz could have all her scenes cut, but that's ok because she isn't convincing whatsoever, but it's Day-Lewis that almost single-handedly drags the film along at times.

In a performance that would seem to be rubber-stamped with 'Oscar' already, he's the only truly memorable thing in 'Gangs of New York'. Over-the-top, but also terrifyingly convincing as a man prepared to do any act of brutality to keep America for the Americans, he steals the film with the same swagger that Bill rules the Five Points. It's a shame that the rest of the film doesn't come anywhere near to matching his performance.

The other characters don't get a look in, which is a shame because there's some interesting backstory to tell. There's former members of Amsterdam's gang, who have either scurried into the shadows or now work for Bill. But a brief look-in is all they get. Again, this suggest that there's a lot of deleted scenes that Scorcese is hopefully storing up.

So three stars is what 'Gangs of New York' gets. Three stars for Scorcese's dream project. The sense of dissapointment and the 'so what?' that course through the film give hints at an unsatisfied director with a studio breathing hard down his neck. Day-Lewis is terrific and the only aspect to truthfully champion about 'Gangs of New York'. Martin Scorcese deserves a hatful of Oscars for his lifetimes work, but if he wins one for this it'll be as much a cheat to him as to other more deserving recipitants.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=6489&reviewer=293
originally posted: 01/18/03 02:49:04
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User Comments

9/28/17 Bents DDL and the setting are the show 4 stars
9/13/17 morris campbell epic 4 stars
3/03/13 Monday Morning Learn a bit about the history of the time (Irish Mobs) & you'll appreciate the film more. 4 stars
10/10/11 monkeybiscuit Overrated indulgence from an old director who is past his prime 3 stars
9/15/11 Clemdane Looks beautiful but has no compelling emotional center 3 stars
2/13/11 Quigley Day-Lewis gives one of the greatest performances in cinema history. Not to be missed. 5 stars
6/09/10 Serge Epic albeit overdone vision of New York's beginning 4 stars
6/08/10 Flathead King What a load of rubbish. 1 stars
4/25/10 art BILL the BUTCHER was AN ASSHOLE!,this film SUCK"S! 1 stars
3/02/10 SEBSEB Great film. The review must be an idiot if he doesnt know 'check' from 'cheque'! 5 stars
8/23/09 Jade Hellcat Maggie does have at least 1 line. She says something like "Just gimme a drink!" 3 stars
7/03/09 the dork knight Overwrought, hyper-realistic, leads nowhere. Only Daniel Day-Lewis seems to be trying!! 3 stars
4/20/09 Ron Ingrasin Masterpiece,even if somewhat historically incorrect 5 stars
10/26/08 TigerSlap Unintentionally funny - while being a small orgy of pointless violence... 1 stars
9/03/08 Shaun Wallner Interesting storyline. 3 stars
8/17/08 ROB best Scorcese film ever 5 stars
6/17/08 Marvin Very ordinary and a waste of time 1 stars
5/15/08 PAUL SHORTT DONT SEE IT! 1 stars
4/15/08 JT Unbelievably good. Most epic movie ever. Awesome Western/mob movie combination 5 stars
2/08/08 mb It wasn't worth watching and was really stupid really. 2 stars
10/24/07 Ivana Mann Is Scorcese trying to be Spielberg?& Diaz is unintentionally hilarous, esp. w/ Irish accent 2 stars
10/17/07 Jimmy One of the best soundtracks Ive ever heard but besides that it was overly violent/sexual 2 stars
12/05/06 Stanley Thai One of the best films of the year. Great movie! 5 stars
8/27/06 stu i'll never forget this film... 5 stars
8/24/06 Agent Sands Scorsese is so amazing that he's made me riveted by a subject that I've little interest in. 5 stars
6/25/06 great loved it 5 stars
5/15/06 Simon y'know i used to like this movie alright, but really... it IS surprisingly shallow... 3 stars
3/28/06 Indrid Cold Mildly interesting, but really just a mediocre western that happens to be set in NYC. 3 stars
2/26/06 chean its great 5 stars
1/08/06 gerry dunne like many Scorsese movies - way below expectations 1 stars
11/30/05 tatum Historically inaccurate, but Day-Lewis is hilarious...oh, he wasn't supposed to be? 2 stars
10/16/05 Moctezuma A good, though, not great, Scorsese picture 5 stars
10/11/05 Wisamane They worked extremly hard to get the 1880's look, Incredible movie, cast and plot!!! 5 stars
9/05/05 R.W. Welch A shade overdrawn but a good yarn about a little known era. 4 stars
9/04/05 sweetgrrl1972 About 1/2 way through when DiCaprio DOESN'T die, I was bitterly bitterly disappointed. 1 stars
8/30/05 LS Galvin Definitely worth a watch - Day-Lewis is incredible! 4 stars
8/13/05 ES Ug say 'Lewis great, Leo stinky= movie ok' 3 stars
6/25/05 Mr Fluffy Day Lewis' 'tache lost out on Oscar night. And so did that magnificent top hat. 4 stars
6/20/05 Titus Uh . . . I don't get it. This was really pretty dumb. Waste of time. 2 stars
6/13/05 Agent Sands It's good, but not up to Scorsese par. 4 stars
4/22/05 pym day lewis is absolutely amazing. very good film but not scorcese's best 5 stars
4/17/05 buic very underrated film. perhaps the best movie ever made.... 5 stars
4/02/05 Cynthia Willingham Great film. Very well done all the way around 5 stars
2/18/05 susee wat the fuc the ending says 2 stars
2/17/05 Daveman Fabulous sets and some impressive performances (even from Leo), not much fun to sit through 3 stars
2/12/05 roy all i can say is wow. 5 stars
1/30/05 Bob Barton Great film...Scorsese should have won Best Director Oscar for this one. 5 stars
11/18/04 Theman987 Great 5 stars
10/24/04 UMER day-lewis deserved an oscar and the movie rocks 5 stars
10/16/04 Taylor Fladgate DiCaprio as an Irish gang leader? OOO, I'm scared! 1 stars
10/15/04 MARZ AWESOME. A LITTLE TO VIOLENT 5 stars
9/26/04 Tor Honolulu How can you not respect Marty's pet project? Danny & Leo do not disappoint 5 stars
8/27/04 Steve Newman Thoroughly enjoyable even overhere in the UK 4 stars
8/24/04 Naka Flawed, muddled, but a fully enjoyable run. 4 stars
8/10/04 kyotomatt People need to stop thinking boring=deep. WAKE UP! 1 stars
8/09/04 rory biggest oscar snub ever 5 stars
8/07/04 ELI um....What was so great about this movie? I hated all the characters! 2 stars
7/19/04 assassin_chick Emotionally charged--a lot is based on true history. We could learn something here. 5 stars
6/25/04 Karen Stockdale Lewis overacts wonderfully and the scenery and fight sequences are incredible 4 stars
6/23/04 Daveman Convoluted and confused, but I'll be damned if there aren't some powerful moments here. 4 stars
6/09/04 horny guy AMAZING! 5 stars
5/19/04 rich do not miss this film. very touching indeed 5 stars
5/04/04 Whatevr A bit of overacting, but most certainly watchable 4 stars
3/23/04 Bikramjit Best movie of 2002 5 stars
3/06/04 zaw very good movie 5 stars
2/15/04 homer holy shit, it was long but it was one outstanding piece of work 5 stars
2/12/04 Chris terrible terrible 1 stars
2/12/04 Shams Huque Daniel Day-Lewis is incredibel! 5 stars
1/31/04 Ultron Daniel Day-Lewis is tremendous. 5 stars
1/21/04 will I agree with eric and erik - and also, diaz sucked hard 3 stars
1/16/04 gloria intersting movie,daniel day lewis is great 4 stars
1/03/04 A F Leo sucks. It needed a better cast. 4 stars
12/24/03 Joel W. De Sario I would rather take a beating then suffer through this mess again. 2 stars
12/05/03 reptilesni ZzzzzzzzzZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzz 1 stars
11/15/03 Ultron Give praise to Daniel Day-Lewis for one of the all time great performances 5 stars
10/11/03 Jinnvisible Scorsese`s use of narrative to fill script and screenplay holes brings antique cinema feel 4 stars
10/10/03 Erik Van Sant Day-Lewis is a fucking force of nature. Too bad the movie can't handle it. CGI elephant. 3 stars
9/28/03 Alan First good DeCrapio role since "...Gilbert Grape." Maybe I should spell his name correctly. 4 stars
9/04/03 Gray "America was born in the streets"? horseshit!!!! maybe NY :) but not America 2 stars
8/14/03 WD40 Excellent! Especially Daniel Day-lewis 5 stars
8/08/03 guisada not impressed 3 stars
7/21/03 I Would Overblown, but worth a look for its beautiful art direction and costumes. 4 stars
7/18/03 EZE the wet dream of violent but epic masterpieces, good supporting actors too 5 stars
7/16/03 123 HOLLZ GREAT REALLY VIOLENT 5 stars
7/12/03 NBCraftsman Early America portrayed with the grandeur (&) spectacle of Fellini (see: Dante Ferretti) 4 stars
7/12/03 glad i saw it! wow great film so inspiring 5 stars
7/11/03 malcolm sweet land of liberty 4 stars
7/09/03 turbocharge Other than a misplaced Cameron Diaz whose character wasn't necessary, this was a great film 4 stars
7/08/03 JC like a braveheart for the civil war, and Dicaprio has finally grown up as an actor 5 stars
7/04/03 oey rome huh? 2 stars
6/13/03 owen barty wonderfull intelligent film 5 stars
6/08/03 MEGAN RAFFLE LEO WAS HOT.........GREAT MOVIE AS WELL 5 stars
6/07/03 amazing 1 word.....wow 5 stars
6/05/03 Elizaveta Its okay overall, but Daniel Day Lewis makes a great villain! 4 stars
5/23/03 Ryan F. Not Martins best by any means, but this IS a great movie. And Jesus Christ its bloody! 5 stars
5/17/03 beach *cough* what can i say cept plz dun make me go thru it again(IM BACK MISS ME??) 1 stars
5/17/03 Jareth Good film. You really do get the feeling you're in 19th Century New York 4 stars
5/14/03 Mr. Hat (I'm Back Mo'Fos!!!) Overrated, even though it's OK. Lots of blood. Not among Scorsese's best, though. 4 stars
5/12/03 Jack Bourbon I'm sorry, but this was complete SHIT. It has the stupidest characters since UHF. 1 stars
5/08/03 Danielle Bryant Great 5 stars
5/04/03 123 playa pretty hot movie 5 stars
5/01/03 Valerie Cameron Overlong; some commanding moments; overall seems more sensational than convincing. 3 stars
4/24/03 Fran I hade to stop myself from hurl;ing at the crapness severeal times 1 stars
4/24/03 PLEASEBEQUIET one word to describe this movie-SHIT!SHIT!SHIT!SHIT!SHIT!SHIT!SHIT!SHIT!SHIT!SHIT!SHIT!SHIT 1 stars
4/23/03 GoldieHawn Im goldie hawn and i thought gangs of new york was horrible cameron and leo shouldnever act 1 stars
4/20/03 Dillon The "Matrix" set do not have opinions that matter. This is a great movie! 5 stars
4/15/03 JoE_fOr_PrEsIdEnT Wow what a hunk of junk. How can u say it is good havent u seen all the mistakes!PHEW! 1 stars
4/15/03 Francis I agree with Paquin's review, but it was still entertaining 4 stars
4/13/03 OrLaNdO_LoVeS_FrAn_4eVa What a piece of crap!Characters dull!Directing atrocious!!Please do not bother! 1 stars
4/10/03 Ross Bernard For once, Paquin's review is fairly accurate. This movie blew. 2 stars
4/07/03 y2mckay Like most of Scorcese's films - overlong, overedited, and gimmicky - but watchable. 4 stars
4/04/03 Jack Bourbon STINKBOMB! Stupid, stupid, stupid characters. Fuck 'em, they deserved death. 2 stars
3/23/03 sicologus It is just magistral. Day-Lewis, you´re the one 5 stars
3/22/03 GMan One of Scorscese's best, despite DiCrapio. Long live Day-Lewis. And Brian, learn to spell. 5 stars
3/20/03 Shadaan Felfeli Mediocre .Go watch the Pianist instead ! 3 stars
3/20/03 Andrew Carden Good Performance By Diaz Cannot Save This Silly, Contrived, and Boring Flick. 2 stars
3/19/03 Debbie This movie sucks DICK! 1 stars
3/18/03 Valerie Cameron Overlong; some commanding moments; overall seems more sensational than convincing. 3 stars
3/15/03 Angolmois Goodfellas-Lite... Except we also have to endure Diaz and DiCaprio's hamming... 1 stars
3/13/03 Stanleycup35 Unbelieveable. Probably the best movie I"ve ever seen 5 stars
3/12/03 Valerie Cameron Overlong; some commanding moments; overall seems more sensational than convincing. 3 stars
3/02/03 King of Swords Not Marty's best but certainly watchable. Atanu is a big baby 4 stars
2/27/03 atanu yeah...an epic like britney spears is a 'diva'. grow up. 2 stars
2/26/03 James Renwick Just goes to show that average film making produces average films. 3 stars
2/24/03 meatgrinder mark bill the butcher is my hero- great fellow. ( francis dolarhyde is still no.1, though ) 5 stars
2/23/03 John Bale Stephen King meets Gone with the Wind. Bloody ! 4 stars
2/20/03 catatafish started great, ended abysmally - it seemed like they were running low on script 1 stars
2/13/03 wetware Could've been great editing lousy in parts good costumes DDL was good 3 stars
2/13/03 mattski mish mash which never really knows where it is heading 3 stars
2/11/03 Ultron The best(and most underrated film) of the year 5 stars
2/11/03 LaNeal Nelson it was wonderfuly done good some things were not really placed by historicaly evented, 4 stars
2/07/03 Goofy Maxwell 'GoNY' is not a NY Hist. Society or Tourism Board production. But it's sho nuff Scorsese. 5 stars
2/05/03 123 if this movie is ever worthy for an award, it is the most violent movie of the year 4 stars
1/27/03 Tobias Klevang Conventional and rather unpersonal for being Scorsese, still a very good film 4 stars
1/22/03 Bobby Peru Best Film of 2002-Bold, Big, Brilliant! 5 stars
1/14/03 thejames Leo is fucking great. Pretty good but not amazing. one of the better movies ive seen recent 4 stars
1/13/03 kosta dicrapio ate ass 1 stars
1/12/03 jesse williams i walked out....granted i snuck in...but i never do that 1 stars
1/12/03 David A. Tries to romanticize crime. Let's face it--street gangs are low class, illiterate scum. 3 stars
1/04/03 George Jung This movie had Daniel-Day Lewis, violence and tits...and the movie was still weak. 3 stars
1/01/03 Jesse the Movie Ventura Day Lewis holds this film in his fist. Waiting for two years and wasnt that good. 3 stars
1/01/03 STEVE GIVE DANIEL-DAY LEWIS AND THIS FILM THERE OSCARS NOW!BEST OF 2002 5 stars
1/01/03 F-Dog Best movie of the year. 5 stars
12/30/02 artemishia Pretty good but way too long. i was ready to leave the 1st hour 3 stars
12/29/02 Jiz Boring. 3 stars
12/29/02 Terry M. Last hour by far makes up for the love story, fucking awesome action sequences 5 stars
12/29/02 Tony Starks Daniel Day plays one of the bests villians in awhile!! 4 stars
12/28/02 Ashley Better than I thought it was going to be. Actually thought provoking at times. 4 stars
12/28/02 Terry M. Underrated 5 stars
12/27/02 ATG Overrated 3 stars
12/27/02 Jesse the Movie Ventura Scorsese's worst:-( Daniel Day-Lewis carries this film in his fist. 3 stars
12/27/02 snowconehead Mediocre acting from all but two, Daniel Day Lewis carried the entire 3 hours 5 stars
12/26/02 bob leather jacket high calibur 5 stars
12/24/02 Film Dude Not bad, but takes way too fucking long to get where it was going. 4 stars
12/23/02 Edler DD Lewis saves the film from the craphouse. The story is out of control. Absurd/Bizarre. 3 stars
12/23/02 Obi Wan Wow! Daniel Day @ his Best. . .Def one of the year's best!!! 5 stars
12/22/02 Terry M. easily one of the finest films to come out this year. stunning work from scorsese. 5 stars
12/22/02 Gary Great scenes, Cameron Diaz deserves best supporting actress!!!! 4 stars
12/21/02 Todd Lewis is the saving grace of an otherwise predictable film 3 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  20-Dec-2002 (R)

UK
  N/A

Australia
  13-Feb-2003




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