Wednesday, February 19, 2003

Gangs of New York

Year: 2002
Dir: Martin Scorsese
Screenplay: Jay Cocks, Steven Zaillian, Ken Lonesgan

Stars: LEONARDO DICAPRIO, Daniel Day-Lewis, Jim Broadbent, Cameron Diaz, John C Reilly, Henry Thomas, Liam Neeson.

Scorsese’s long awaited epic creation, at just under 3-hours long sure does pack a punch and a hell of a lot more than that. It is compelling, exciting and gruelling at times. At others, its just plain annoying, with its rather mixed up dialogue, something that grows on you eventually.

Intertwining the history, you have a story of love, betrayal, revenge and a frightening bad guy with the rather apt name of ‘Bill the Butcher’.

From the on-set you are confronted with the reason this was granted an R/18 cert. Not so much for the bloody violence, gruesome attention to detail and nudity, but for the obsessive foul language and racial slurs, leading you to wonder whether they actually did speak like this back in the 19th Century. If meat cleavers and other sharp metal objects are your game then this is the movie for you, because it is definitely not for the faint-hearted. Add a warning to vegetarians here too.

Scorsese paints a rather bleak and violent picture of the world as it was before inevitably fading us into the New York of today. The message coming across is a contradictory one, which ironically mirrors the state of contemporary American politics - by threatening war you will disarm your enemy and keep the peace or else wipe them out entirely?

Let’s suppose for a moment this is really how democracy came about, or how they built America, land of the free home of the brave. Then it’s a damning testimony of human nature. A secret history you’d have thought they would have preferred to keep well hidden under the proverbial carpet. Any American watching this premise unfold in front of their eyes, set against the hallowed ground of a New York backdrop sees nothing to be proud of.

That being said, the great artistry, superb cinematography, and excellent performances from Day-Lewis, DiCaprio and Diaz, are an explosive mix, and worth watching for the chemistry alone. Not forgetting the rest of the international cast, every street urchin to politician is believable.

It is such a shame that all of this is lost amongst the debris, when the director chooses to unravel the entire plot in the closing five minutes, shattering your illusions and reducing the film to a mere grandiose historical set piece. Is there anything more disenchanting than an opportunity lost? Believing Scorsese is God perhaps.

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