Gangs of New York
Release year: 2002
Director: Martin Scorsese
Screenwriter: Jay Cocks, Steven Zaillian, Kenneth Lonergan
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Daniel Day-Lewis, Cameron Diaz, John C. Reilly, Jim Broadbent, Henry Thomas, Liam Neeson, Brendan Gleeson
Ratings: 10 Oscar nominations: Best Picture, Best Actor (Daniel Day-Lewis), Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, Best Sound, Best Original Song. 2 Golden Globes: Best Director, Best Original Song. 3 Golden Globes nominations: Best Picture – Drama, Best Actor (Daniel Day-Lewis), Best Supporting Actress (Cameron Diaz).
In 1863 lower Manhattan is run by gangs, the most powerful being the Natives led by the ruthless crime boss Bill ‘The Butcher’ Cutting (Daniel Day-Lewis). But returning to the area is Amsterdam Vallon (Leonardo DiCaprio), who has grown up in an orphanage after Cutting killed his father Priest Vallon (Liam Neeson) in a battle on Paradise Square. Now Amsterdam are set for revenge and the gangs of New York get ready for a final battle.
Scorsese’s (Goodfellas, 1990) grand American epic Gangs of New York is an intense and powerful movie with a cast of some of the finest actors of our time. DiCaprio (The Departed, 2006) here worked with Scorsese for the first time, apparently hitting it of so well that they have collaborated several times since, delivering some of the best movies of DiCaprio’s career. His performance as Amsterdam is heartfelt and strong and Diaz (Being John Malkovich, 1999), who mostly does rom-com, gives one of those performances that proves jer acting range is much larger than what we usually get to see. But the real showstopper is the mesmerizing and insanely intimidating performance by the great Day-Lewis (Lincoln, 2012). As usual completely disappearing into his role, he makes Cutting a character you have no wish meeting. With those strong performances in the lead, you should think there would be no room left for great support, but Scorsese has managed to bag a bunch of stars to back up the lead. Most notable is Gleeson (In Bruges, 2008) and Broadbent (Cloud Atlas, 2012) but also Thomas (yes, that’s the young kid from E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial from 1982) and Reilly (Chicago, 2002) delivers. With those talents one could imagine you would be able to see them perform on a wooden stage and be happy, but Gangs of New York is a brilliantly crafted period piece though down to detail. By filming in Italy the sets were built on the large exterior stages of Cinnecittà Studios in Rome and give such a realistic picture of mid-19th century New York that you can almost smell the filth. The story may not be the most elegantly crafted one, but all the above ensures you are gripped through the long running time (close to 3 hours) and the background story to the main story line, gives an interesting look on American history that many may not know.
Most of the gangs mentioned by name were real 19th-century New York gangs. Bill “The Butcher” Cutting is based largely on real-life New York gang leader Bill Poole, who also was known as “The Butcher” and had much the same prestige as Daniel Day-Lewis’s character.
Picture copyrights: Miramax Films