In the mid-1800s New York City was a brutal place to be with rival gangs dominating almost every aspect of daily life. In the middle of things Amsterdam sets out on a quest to avenge his father’s death by killing gang leader Bill “the Butcher” Cutting, falling in love with a beautiful pickpocket along the way.
Leonardo DiCaprio (Amsterdam), Daniel Day-Lewis (Bill), Cameron Diaz (Jenny), Jim Broadbent (William Tweed), John C. Reilly (Happy Jack), Henry Thomas (Johnny), Liam Neeson (Priest), Brendan Gleeson (Monk).
Gangs of New York starts off by jumping almost straight into the story which looks quite unrealistic. As the film moves along the reality of the brutality and ridiculousness of the characters at the time solidifies and our focus is drawn to the performances. The impact of life at the time and the flow of the film almost leads us to expect it to morph into a musical at any moment which, thankfully, it doesn’t. What it does do is run on a bit long for the story being told finally wrapping up in a solid ending.
Acting was pretty good with DiCaprio delivering surprisingly well. Day-Lewis however stole the show presenting a character that was at once larger than life and definitively flawed. Diaz did well, as did Reilly, Neeson, and Gleeson.
Camera work, sets, and backgrounds were extremely well done, as was costuming. The enormity of the film was lost at times by the intensity of the story but technical work from most every aspect was very well done. Dialogue was also very good with eloquent speech that contrasted the bleak setting well. Sound and soundtrack were nicely done.
Overall Gangs of New York is an interesting and quite unusual film based on a well worn theme which surprisingly allows the film to work as well as it did. Those who enjoy physical action with intense drama will likely enjoy this the most.
With plenty of foul language, strong violence and adult themes, sexuality and nudity, save this one for the oldest teens and above.
Official movie site.
Gangs of New York is no longer showing in any Littleton Colorado movie theatres.
Star rating: 4 out of 5
copyright ©2011 Dave Riedel
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