Gangs of New York (2002)

Scorsese paints a stunning picture of one of America’s most turbulent periods, featuring a tour de force performance by Daniel Day-Lewis.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Dir. Martin Scorsese
2002 | USA | Crime/Drama | 167 mins | 2.35:1 | English, Irish, Chinese, Latin
M18 (passed clean) for intense strong violence, sexuality/nudity and language

Cast:  Leonardo DiCaprio, Cameron Diaz, Daniel Day-Lewis, Jim Broadbent, John C. Reilly, Liam Neeson, Brendan Gleeson
Plot:  In 1862, Amsterdam Vallon returns to the Five Points area of New York City seeking revenge against Bill the Butcher, his father’s killer.
Awards: Nom. for 10 Oscars – Best Picture, Best Director, Best Leading Actor, Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design, Best Sound, Best Original Song.
Source: Miramax/Sony

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate/Slightly Violent
Narrative Style: Complex
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: Slightly Mainstream

Viewed: DVD
First Published: 19 Mar 2007
Spoilers: No


Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York (nominated for an amazing ten Oscars but failed to win even one) is a measured accomplishment.  If Gangs of New York were helmed by another director, even the harshest critic would have labeled it the year’s best film.

Because of our sky-high expectations for a Scorsese picture, whatever he does surely comes under more scrutiny.  Many claim that Gangs is too commercialized, and is devoid of the usual Scorsese magic.  Others complain that it’s a slow, and dully-written film.

While this is not Scorsese’s best effort (neither is it close to what he has achieved in his prime), Gangs of New York is still a very powerful period film.  It’s a slightly fictionalized account about the development of America in the mid-19th century. 

“When you kill a king, you don’t stab him in the dark. You kill him where the entire court can watch him die.”

The opening sequence (one of the my favourites!) is an incredible experience, almost spiritual-like.  After that, it seems quiet by comparison. Scorsese takes his time to develop the characters, with Daniel Day-Lewis providing the star performance as Bill the Butcher.

Gangs of New York is Scorsese’s first attempt to make a film on an epic scale since the likes of The Last Temptation of Christ (1988) and Casino (1995).  He succeeds to a favourable extent.  

But the film occasionally meanders about, huffing and puffing along.  There’s still much to appreciate though, and the ever so reliable director can be counted upon to paint a stunning picture of one of America’s most turbulent periods.

Grade: A-


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