Gangs of New York (2002)

May 16, 2011 § Leave a comment

Day-Lewis and DiCaprio squaring off in 'Gangs of New York'

Written by Steve Zaillian, Jay Cocks and Kenneth Lonergan

Directed by Martin Scorsese

Starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Daniel Day-Lewis

Gangs of New York will not be a classic film, except perhaps for Daniel Day Lewis’ mesmerizing performance as Bill the Butcher, with his iconic, unique British-New York fusion accent and his imposing presence. The film sports an exceptionally pedigreed cast, but is otherwise only so-so.

If you take out Bill the Butcher it’s a rather tepid historical epic of no particular importance, with rather bland characters fighting over a tiny patch of land on the edge of an infant-New York city. Leonardo DiCaprio does an alright job as Amsterdam, the upstart young Irish protagonist of the film, an orphan with a score to settle with Bill the Butcher from his early child hood. He smolders, cries and fights effectively, but there’s still a sense of him trying to shed his boyish image from his earlier career. He’s accompanied by a cast of familiar faced young character actors (Stephen Graham, Henry Thomas, Larry Gilliard, Jr., etc.) given one dimensional characters as his friends and compatriots in the streets of the rough 5-points district of a still forming New York city.

We get minor but effective appearances from stalwart older character actors like Liam Neeson, Brendan Glesson and John C. Reilly as elder statesmen of the area, but the film belongs to DiCarprio and Day-Lewis. Cameron Diaz is alright as a tough, street wise pickpocket who is the object of every man’s affections, but ultimately her character is superfluous to the overall story. She exists to give the male characters something else to think about besides murdering each other.

Gangs is an ambitious film with a lot of effort put into it by a who’s who of actors, producers and of course the legendary director Martin Scorsese, but it doesn’t stand up to similar epic fair in the grand scheme of cinema.

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