Gangs of New York is just perfect entertainment. It is an enthralling, bloody, melodramatic epic that more than justifies its two and one half hour running time. In Gangs director Martin Scorsese spins another tale of the New York underworld but with a twist. Instead of the mid-twentieth century organized crime milieu of Goodfellas, Scorsese ventures back to the 19th century to show us the origin of the modern street gang.
It's the early 1860s and the notorious Five Points slum is ruled by the savage `Bill the Butcher'. The viciously nationalistic Bill terrorizes all the immigrant masses jammed into his slum but seems to harbor a particular hatred for the Irish population. Into this seething cauldron wanders mysterious young Amsterdam Vallon who soon works his way into the trust and affection of Bloody Bill. Amsterdam, however, has a past with the unsuspecting Butcher and sports an agenda not unlike a certain Prince of Denmark. Bloody vengeance and dark betrayal soon come to pass, all played against a backdrop of corruption and unrest that lead to up to the horrors of New York Civil War draft riots.
Daniel Day-Lewis is marvelous as Bill the Butcher. His Bill is both recognizably human and a full bore, moustache-twirling villain. Day-Lewis strides his savage and profane way across the screen and steals the whole of the movie. The only other actor to approach Day-Lewis' level is Jim Broadbent as William 'Boss' Tweed. Broadbent is Tweed's spitting image and he makes the grasping old pirate so winning we find ourselves rooting for Tweed against the gaggle of reformers that infest his domain. Though Leonardo DiCaprio is the nominal lead of the picture he is overshadowed by his co-stars. Large, slope shouldered and vaguely brutish looking, DiCaprio is physically perfect for Amsterdam. While he could have used some of the fire and rage of a young James Cagney, DiCaprio's acting is superior throughout the movie. The problem is that Amsterdam just isn't as flashy a...
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