Directed by: Martin Scorsese
Written by: Jay Cocks (story and screenplay), Steven Zaillian (screenplay), Kenneth Lonergan (screenplay)
Produced by: Alberto Grimaldi, Harvey Weinstein
Runtime: 167 minutes
Chances of winning?
In the end, I think it edged out The Hours and The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers in the voting for the top award, proven by the wide amount of support spread in the Academy proven by the number of nominations it received, albeit none of them were converted to an actual Oscar. So with that, I guess this was third in the number of votes.
There is nothing that readies us for the tension that the film carries throughout its whole running time. Right from the first scene with the Priest Vallon shaving to the main event which is the war in New York between the natives led by the infamous Bill “The Butcher” Cutting against the foreigners led by the Priest Vallon, powerful filmmaking is immediately pushed into us, making the experience more visceral and the ambitious scope is immediately justified by meticulous craftsmanship in these scenes.
After the opening sequence, the film leaves a quiet space with scenes of the Priest’s son Amsterdam growing up inside the church. It effectively draws an impactful shift of character when the boy throws the Bible in the water. It’s a shocking image, but it is very much in line with what the film is really about – loss of civilized communication in exchange of violent exchange.
The succeeding scenes are anchored into these scenes, no matter how tough or romantic those scenes are, thanks to the one-track minded screenplay and the compelling storytelling by the director. It is admittedly uneven at points, but it is all for the benefit of serving the whole film because those specific points give the film the life that it needs outside the physical carnage that we see in the film. This is even intensified with the sweeping cinematography and innovative editing.
The character development of Amsterdam is well-handled by the screenplay, but a lot is also to be thanked to Leonardo DiCaprio for making his character someone who is imperfect yet kind-hearted. His chemistry with Cameron Diaz, unbelievably good here, is very much effective in setting up the story’s more romantic side. They act in full grace and intensity. Particularly interesting is Diaz, whose toughness feels very authentic, but the scenes showing her fears are acted with impassioned ingénue.
Bracing the film with a higher level of power is Daniel Day-Lewis’ larger-than-life yet surprisingly subdued rendition of The Butcher. He’s showing it all, almost in an over-the top manner, but somehow, he does not overdo it. He lets the character’s already scene-stealing characteristics and just plays it with enough conviction and visible intelligence. The result is a terrifying performance that can only be delivered by a true professional. Terrifying not in the sense that the character’s motivations are almost associated with evil, but because his portrayal of The Butcher is so lifelike and so realistic.
But most of all, this is Scorsese’s film. He has crafted a film that he adds into his filmography that demonstrate knowledge of the craft that only a man like him could do. The scope of the film is felt in every scene of the movie, but it also does not forget that it is not just about the scope – he has a personal story to tell. It is a story of the people who had fought for and built the civilization. The film is undeniably epic, but there is intimacy in it. And as we all know, it takes a filmmaker like Scorsese for the film to work, and it did.
Gangs of New York is a sweeping saga of bloodshed, romance, and history told in a vibrant manner and handled with care by one of cinema’s best filmmakers around. It is unashamedly epic, gargantuan, and colossal, and it shows. Every single part of the film delivers excellence in their field, and the result is a film that feels so passionately made.
For this, the movie gets:
So, agree or disagree?