Pretty Damn Dire
Gary F. Taylor | Biloxi, MS USA | 09/24/2010
(2 out of 5 stars)
"It is tempting to think of New York as it existed between 1800 and 1900 as awash with Victorian elegance--but that was true for only a lucky few, and while there was indeed a growing middleclass, much of the city was little more than a cesspool of corrupt politics and vicious mobs that robbed and killed at will. These gangs were documented by journalist Herbert Asbury. His 1926 book was titled THE GANGS OF NEW YORK, and it painted a searing portait of the Five Points district, the numerous gangs, Tamanny Hall, and most particularly the Draft Riots of 1863. The book eventually attracted the attention of one America's most celebrated filmmakers: Martin Scorsese, who was determined to make a film out of it and who failed miserably at it.
There are actually a few positive things about GANGS OF NEW YORK. The first is that it isn't quite as bad as MANOS, HANDS OF FATE. (Then again, nothing is.) That aside, the design side of the film is brilliant; the designers involved have created a vision of New York that has never really been attempted, much less realized. The sets, the costumes, the props, every detail is meticulously rendered. But sad to say, the rest of the movie stinks. Although Daniel Day-Lewis' performance as Bill the Butcher has many fans, it really isn't much more than characture. Leonardo DiCaprio is consistently mediocre and Cameron Diaz is relentlessly miscast. The script is uninspired--and sad to say the story is too, a ridiculous melodrama about a mere lad (DiCaprio, eventually) who sees his father (Liam Neeson) killed by Bill the Butcher (Day-Lewis.) Now grown up, he returns and seeks revenge. It's all very ho-hum stuff, and particularly so when you stop to consider the book that suggested the film. It contains hundreds of characters and stories. This made-up plot was the best they could do? With a run time well over two hours the whole thing feels interminable, and sad to say the bonus material on the second disk is considerably more interesting than the film itself.
Scorsese fans, people with a fondness for the leading actors, and those who truly have nothing better to do will likely enjoy GANGS OF NEW YORK, but I find it a tremendous disappointment and I think most people will too. Miss it.
GFT, Amazon Reviewer