Gangs of New York

Discussion in 'Reviews' started by Dan, Aug 29, 2003.

  1. Dan
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    Dan Senior Member

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    Time to start this forum up!

    I saw this movie a couple weeks ago and never bothered to post about it. Well, going into it, I figured I'd like it, Scorsese is one of my top two or three directors of all time. However, I've never been a fan of period pieces, so I was a little worried. However, I was wrong, this has become one of my favorite Scorsese movies of all time, right up there with Goodfellas and Taxi Driver.

    This movie, a mostly true story, takes place in a time not really covered in history books, early Civil War-era New York City. After seeing this film, it's easy to see why they omitted this time, though. Practically all conflicts were solved by violent gang wars fought in the streets. The government was openly corrupt, and secretly run by an upper-class gang and its leader, Bill the Butcher, a sort of 19th century Mafia, almost. Practically all ways of making money revolve around theft in one way or another.

    THe story involves Amsterdam Vallon (Leonardo DiCaprio), a young man who returns to his hometown of New York with no intentions except to kill Bill the Butcher, the man who murdered his father in a gang fight when Amsterdam was eight years old. He eventually starts to grow closer to Bill and matters complicate as it becomes very clear that Bill looks at him as the son he never had.

    Daniel-Day Lewis plays Bill the Butcher as a very human yet very cold man. He is a showman and loves being the center of attention, and when it benefits him, he can be a very giving person. However, as we see from the very beginning, he is a cold-blooded killer, using his butchery tools as weapons in gang fights. He refers to himself, ironically, as a "native American" and rails against the many Irish immigrants coming to the city every day.

    This sense of racism in the early days of America is very reflective of today's society. While we all constantly complain about all the middle easterners and Mexicans coming into the country, we fail to think about the fact that the same things were being said about our ancestors not too long ago.

    Looming over this entire conflict is the fact that the american government was about to enforce the first mandatory military draft in its history. We see that contrary to popular belief (at least in the south), most northerners were just as against slavery as the southerners. In one shocking and rather disturbing moment, Irish immigrants are brought off the boat from Ireland, handed a gun and a Union uniform, and sent right back onto another boat to go fight in a state they haven't even heard of. Things come to a head on the day that the draft goes into effect. As the poor are told that their sons could be exempt from service if they pay $300, they realize what's really going on. Things come to a head as the poor communities start a riot, killing many upper-class people as well as many blacks. Eventually, the Union army got involved and began opening fire on the poor, women, children, whoever. By the end of the three-day riot, thousands of americans were dead. While this all was going on, Amsterdam prepares for battle with Bill the Butcher. I won't spoil what happens, but I will say that the climax ended different than I thought it would, but it was still great.

    I think anyone who complains about how violent our nation has become needs to see this movie. Something as simple as a minor joke likely would end in a bloody fight back then. As stated, violence was considered the only way to solve a problem. Most people don't like to accept it, but america was built on violence, be it against the Indians or the British, we are a nation of people who are ready and willing to kill those who oppose us.

    Much has been said about the violence in this movie, and most of it is well-deserved. If you have a weak stomach, you might want to fast-forward through the gang battles, which include ears being ripped off, meat cleavers and blunt clubs used as weapons, cheeks being ripped in half, etc. It's rather hard to watch and even more hard to stomach when you realize that this is a historically accurate account if how these things happened. However, like many other "gory" movies (Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Patriot), the vast majority of the violence is actually not shown onscreen, but the editing and overall violent tone makes you think you see a lot more than you actually do.

    If you're willing to see a very negative time in American history, or if you just want to see a flat-out great movie, I recommend this.

    ****
     
  2. NightTrain
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    NightTrain VIP Member

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    That was indeed a good movie... a bit long, though. They could have condensed that to a normal 2 hour length.
     
  3. Dan
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    Dan Senior Member

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    In my opinion, it was perfect the way it was. I couldn't imagine anything they could've cut that wouldn't have taken away from the film.
     
  4. Jackass
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    Jackass Active Member

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    I thought this movie was a huge letdown for me. I thought it dragged on way too long and just wasnt that interesting.
     
  5. janeeng
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    That was the movie John! I even enjoyed the Warriors!
     
  6. Dan
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    Dan Senior Member

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    Hey, if you're looking for a good gang movie, pick up "The Outsiders", starring EVERYBODY, before they were famous of course.
     
  7. janeeng
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    janeeng Guest

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    Dan, gee, I did forget about that movie, this too was a classic. John is right though, the warriors is what I think to be a TRUE gang!!!! but I did like the outsiders too!
     
  8. Dan
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    Dan Senior Member

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    Yeah, I was being sarcastic, I didn't think Outsiders was all that great anyway.

    "Stay gold, Ponyboy!"
     
  9. janeeng
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    I actually thought Outsiders was very good!!!!!! Had to love all the actors too!
     
  10. Jackass
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    The Outsiders was an AWESOME movie! An instant classic. Another good gangster movie is A Bronx Tale.
     

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