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Overall Rating
3.46

Awesome: 27.36%
Worth A Look27.83%
Average: 21.7%
Pretty Bad: 9.43%
Total Crap: 13.68%

9 reviews, 158 user ratings


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Gangs of New York
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by Rob Gonsalves

"Not Scorsese's finest hour, to say the least."
2 stars

If it were anyone but Martin Scorsese behind 'Gangs of New York,' most critics would, I suspect, advise you to avoid it. Since it is Scorsese, the reviews have been respectful even when mixed, in honor of the master's early films.

They are genuflecting to a movie god whose presence is seldom felt in Gangs of New York, a murky, empty saga that represents Scorsese at both his biggest and worst. Scorsese had wanted to adapt the material in Herbert Asbury's nonfiction book for 30 years, and the trials he went through to shoot the picture and then edit it down to a reasonable length are by now legendary, so the temptation may be to go easy on this epic from the critically anointed Greatest Living American Director. What's the point of defending the movie, though, when there's very little of him in it? It's like revering a toilet Scorsese recently used and flushed.

Well, maybe not that bad (I can hear the howls: "You're likening the new Scorsese film to a toilet?"). The movie is certainly watchable, if choppy and impersonal (the choppiness may owe to the reported hour of trimmed footage). Much has been made of its violent passages, when warring factions in 19th-century New York go at each other with knives, cleavers, swords, even metal claws. It's hard to say how much of the resulting thin flash-cut carnage was genuinely Scorsese's idea and how much was imposed on him by the MPAA, but what you're watching is fleeting glimpses of slashing and bashing in the midst of seething chaos. I'm not asking for slow-motion close-ups of flying heads and splattered guts, but it would be nice to have some spatial sense of what's going on; the moments of mass slaughter, which must have been hell to choreograph, just feel fake -- fake-seeming brutality surely being a first in a Scorsese film. Worse, it feels as though Scorsese is aping the frantic, incompetent hand-to-hand combat scenes in lesser films like Gladiator.

The story that Jay Cocks has drawn from Asbury's anecdotal material (with the help of co-scripters Steven Zaillian and Kenneth Lonergan, both of whose knack for pithy, juicy dialogue is sometimes evident here) is a drawn-out revenge fable. In 1846, the stolid, noble Priest Vallon (Liam Neeson), leader of the immigrant gang the Dead Rabbits, readies for battle with the Natives, led by the vicious and aptly named Bill "the Butcher" Cutting (Daniel Day-Lewis). Vallon falls to the Butcher's blade; his now-orphaned son escapes and grows up to be an angry young man (Leonardo DiCaprio) who christens himself Amsterdam. Since there'd be no movie if he didn't, Amsterdam returns to the Five Points, site of his father's death, where the Butcher still holds sway, with various politicians and lawmen (including Jim Broadbent's Boss Tweed and John C. Reilly's too-Officer-Clancy-like Happy Jack). Amsterdam falls in with Johnny Sirocco (Henry Thomas), who remembers him from childhood; he cons himself into the Butcher's inner circle and into the bed of the Butcher's favorite lass, the pickpocket Jenny Everdeane (Cameron Diaz).

What with the post-Titanic Leo craze, people forget that DiCaprio can be a fine actor and entertainer. (For proof of that, I refer you to the contemporaneous Catch Me If You Can.) But as written, Amsterdam simply isn't a strong enough -- or complex enough -- character to hold the center of a 168-minute movie, and doesn't give DiCaprio enough to chew on. The performance is surly and wet; I don't think DiCaprio smiles more than twice. Where was Scorsese on the set? He all but ignores Cameron Diaz (whose accent comes and goes, and whose character scarcely makes sense anyway), and, as usual, he doesn't have much interest in the film's women in general; mostly they're puffed-up society femmes or cackling whores, and the alarming-looking warrior Hellcat Maggie (Cara Seymour), who slashes men down with her metal talons and takes their ears, gets lost in the crowd after the first gang battle, occasionally scowling wordlessly (she has no dialogue) in the middle of the rabble.

No, Scorsese only has eyes for Daniel Day-Lewis as the Butcher. I'll concede that this is a riveting figure of mayhem played by a great actor returning from a five-year hiatus from the screen; Day-Lewis, his voice as flat and mean as the blades he flourishes, knows the camera is attending to his every intonation and twitch, and performs accordingly. But how much of a triumph is it to lord over a movie that the director hands to you while forgetting about your co-stars? The Butcher has more life -- and more fun -- than anyone else in the movie, and it was around the halfway point that I started understanding Gangs of New York as a 19th-century rewrite of GoodFellas, with DiCaprio filling in for Ray Liotta as the gangster who is in, but not quite of, a violent group of men, while Day-Lewis, a taller and more baroque Joe Pesci, enjoys being the unpredictable psycho everyone fears.

Why did Scorsese spend three decades thirsting to make this movie? It's nowhere clear on the screen. Probably he wanted to wallow in the low, Dickensian origins of the macho, destructive gangs whose modern descendants he chronicled so memorably and effortlessly. But he's stuck with a wholly conventional script and a $100 million budget; you definitely see the money on the screen -- the elaborate sets were built at the Cinecitta studios in Rome -- but it registers as flop sweat, not an actual place where actual people lived, just as the equally cluttered sets in Robert Altman's Popeye made you feel the strain and pressure of money.

'Gangs of New York' doesn't feel torn from Scorsese's obsessions, or even sparked by his curiosity (as his underrated 'Kundun' did). Frankly, it feels as if Harvey Weinstein finally handed him a check to make some sort of 'Gangs of New York' film, and as if Scorsese, not wanting to blow the chance, rushed into it with a weak script and a faint memory of why he'd wanted to film the book in the first place.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=6489&reviewer=416
originally posted: 01/03/07 14:17:24
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User Comments

7/19/14 rarywbzh USA 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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