Gangs of New York is really an underrated flick probably appreciated more after watching it a time or two. I did just that recently when I saw the flick appear on one of my premium cable channels. I should add that I only mean underrated in the sense that though it is widely acclaimed as a great film, which is typically a King on this site, Gangs of New York is arguably one of the all time greats, ah, an Ace on this site. The more I watch it, the more I think it is a Top 100 film.
The film revolves around five main points. Okay, we are talking about the Five Points neighborhood, a historic district of infamous crime and debauchery that once thrived in New York City's Manhattan district in the Civil War era. Here we find an Irish Gang, The Dead Rabbits, getting ready for a battle with the Bowery Boys, "Nativists" who were violently anti-Catholic.
Liam Neeson is Priest Vallon, leader of The Dead Rabbits. This is not your average man of the collar. He is more a man of the knife and club. He leads the Dead Rabbits to a bloody street mob fight with the Bowery Boys, themselves led by Bill The Butcher, acted out in a Best Actor caliber performance by Daniel Day-Lewis.
Man, does Daniel Day-Lewis kicks ass as Bill The Butcher. Day-Lewis has a knack for playing Messianic power-mad characters. If you have seen There Will Be Blood (2007), you will know what I am talking about.
Bill The Butcher kills Vallon and sends his son Amsterdam, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, off to an orphanage, where he will no doubt come back to seek his revenge (generally the plot of the movie).
While DiCaprio is good as Amsterdam Vallon, grown up son of the Priest, and Cameron Diaz is surely a "stargazer," as Amsterdam puts it in the film, this movie is bigger than this love angle. The thing that is fascinating most about Gangs of New York is that it time warps you back to the days of the Five Points gangs and Tammany Hall. You experience a real authenticate-like taste of history.
Gangs of New York - YouTube Video
And, the violence really rocks too. The street fighting cinematograpy is excellent. The tension and forboding is palpable when we first meet Bill The Butcher walking down a snowy streety. He has madness in his eyes as well as clelverly imposed American Bald Eagles for pupils - a very cool Scorsese touch.
Gangs of New York is sort of a rolled-all-into one version of many history-based gangs that once thrived in the Five Points. It is a fascinating look at a violent past that may have more to do with the notion of America being a metling pot than we care to admit. Directed by the renowned Martin Scorseee, this film is an Ace in ever regard.
Cool Things About Gangs of New York
Smashing kick-ass performance by Daniel Day-Lewis as Bill The Butcher
You seem to appreciate a good book as well a a film. And in that regards, which I am sure you will agree with, It is rare when the film adaptation is better than the book (though I think there are some rare examples). The shame of it is that so many people don't realize how enjoyable a good book is simply because they don't read. The book really gets the imagination going and the film really imagines the story for you. Plus, it simply can't contain as much material. It is like a sliver or elongated abstract of the whole story. Still, I like to consider the movies on their own grounds and comparing film to film, I have to say, I still liked this movie very much.
Unfortunately, the downplaying of vital elements of the books is all too commonplace. When books are made into movies, they're hacked to pieces, as you pointed out on a post under another thread, and the real story is often taken out. "Gangs of New York" is no exception.
Great observation. I happened to pick up a cop of the original Gangs of New York book, from which the movie was inspired. The draft riots were clearly downplayed. Overall, the sets were remarkable. I thought Leonardo DiCaprio was fairly effective too. Daniel Day Lewis - what more can I say: another mind blowing performance.
The Gangs of New York was basically a good movie, but it seemed to downplay the racial aspect of the conflict between the blacks and the Irish at that time, which was a crucial part of that particular conflict.