Gangs of New York

People seem to feel divided about this film. To some, it is yet another impressive movie by Martin Scorsese finding it to be a very visceral experience. To others, it is the director's worst film finding it to be ridiculous overwrought. For me, I find myself a bit mixed about it. It's is an excellent piece of filmmaking but it is very much marred by conventional "Hollywood" elements.

Scorsese does an outstanding job at creating the lower Manhattan of 1863. It shows it as a city "full of tribes, rich and poor" where crime and corruption run rampant. Not to mention a society where rich lived the high life while the poor got poorer. It brilliantly shows the very vivid (sometimes graphic) details into the gang warfare of the time where the waring tribes battled against each in the most barbaric manner using only knives and clubs.

What really stands out in this film is the character of Bill "The Butcher" Cutting, brilliantly played by Daniel Day-Lewis. He steals pretty much every scene he's in. He is the leader of the gang known as "The Natives". He has an immense hatred of Irish as well as unbelievable skill with knives. He is someone who is prone to kill anyone he wishes without hesitation. He is without a doubt one of the best villains in recent movie history.

Bill's major accomplishment is killing Priest Vallon, the leader of "The Dead Rabbits." Priest Vallon's son Amsterdam (Leonardo DiCaprio) grows up and vowing to avenge his father's death. Amsterdam has Bill take him under his wing so he can find the right moment to exact his revenge. As Amsterdam himself says "When you kill a king you don't stab him in the back, you wait so the whole court can watch him die."

Still, this is an impressive film. The cinematography and editing are brilliant, The music is powerful, and the sets are stunning. The violence in this film can be quite intense and at times rather unexpected. The supporting cast which includes Brendan Gleeson, Jim Broadbent, and John C. Reilly is good and while their could have been a better lead than DiCaprio, he still gives one of his better performances.

This powerful if imperfect historical piece. Watching this movie is an exhilarating experience even though drama is somewhat clich├ęd at times. Whatever faults the narrative has is made up its remarkable atmosphere and historical accuracy. It is not one of Scorsese's best films but if you are a fan of his work it is definitely a must watch.