Review of "Gangs of New York", 5 of 5 stars

Discussion in 'DVD Video' started by Mike Shea, Oct 23, 2003.

  1. Mike Shea

    Mike Shea Guest

    Gangs of New York is proof that Scorsese still has what he had during
    Goodfella's and Casino. It is a big film, taking almost 30 years to
    make, but it was worth the wait. While Bringing Out the Dead was a far
    stretch from the kind of films we're used to seeing Scorsese, Gangs
    shows a growth without a loss of his dark and brutal eye. Gangs of New
    York is an excellent movie.

    He grins at the corrupt police officer and lightly taps his American
    eagle glass eye with the tip of a butcher's knife, making everyone
    around, including the audience, very uncomfortable. Daniel Day-Lewis as
    Bill the Butcher is the best part of Gangs of New York. He is a
    philosopher, politician, and aristocrat but then reminds you what he
    truly is by planting a meat cleaver into the small of someone's back to
    accentuate his point. He may be the most detailed villain in any
    Scorsese movie. He considers himself a patriot and he knows when to
    speak and when to act. He knows his empire rests on his example of
    brutality so severe that no one would dare stand up against him. Daniel
    Day-Lewis does such a great job that the decent performances of Leonardo
    DiCaprio and Cameron Dias are all but completely overshadowed. Their
    relationship is probably the least important part of the movie. Bill the
    Butcher is as lovable as the two Joe Pesci characters from Goodfella's
    and Casino. He's horrible but has an honor among thieves. Bill's love
    for his fallen enemy is articulated in the movie's best scene, a scene
    where Bill talks to Amsterdam about his first battle against his father.
    He sits quietly in a rocking chair, wrapped into an american flag, a
    bullet having just been removed from his arm. He recounts his first
    battle, a battle where he plucked out his own eye to make a point.

    Gangs of New York is a movie about big hats. The hats are everywhere,
    often so big that they cannot fit in the frame of the picture. There
    must be over two thousand different hats, over two dozen just for Bill
    the Butcher alone. The detail in both costumes and sets in Gangs is
    astonishing, big hats included. Scorsese's strength is his eye for a
    shot and willingness to use a more modern style, particularly in the
    first battle for the empire of the Five Points. The disjointed
    frame-rate switch, between 12 and 48 fps, and a modern sound track is a
    nice switch from what has become the standard effects for combat scenes
    based on Ridley Scott's Gladiator and Black Hawk Down.

    The DVD for Gangs of New York is a gem in any collection. It includes a
    sharp and colorful 2.35 to 1 16x9 enhanced picture and both Dolby
    Digital and DTS soundtracks. The movie includes a commentary with
    Scorsese with a lot of background on both the movie and the history.
    There is also a 35 minute Discovery channel documentary on the making of
    the movie. The movie is split across two discs, the only disadvantage of
    this otherwise excellent DVD. If you like the movie this is a DVD to own.

    Movies based on half truths of historical events are always a gamble.
    Movies should either be true fantasy or true history. History with
    dramatic license can break even the best movies. Gangs of New York takes
    this gamble and wins. While the best reason to see this movie is to
    watch Daniel Day-Lewis as Bill the Butcher, the rest of it holds
    together well enough to make an excellent movie. With so much crap out
    there now, movies like Gangs of New York look even better. Buy it and
    watch it.

    Mike Shea
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    Mike Shea, Oct 23, 2003
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