ninth symphony films - movie reviews


DIRECTOR  -  martin scorsese

RATED  -  r

GENRE  -  drama

LENGTH  -  168 minutes

RELEASED  -  20 december 2002

DISTRIBUTOR  -  miramax pictures

OFFICIAL SITE  -  gangs of new york

ESTIMATED BUDGET  -  $97,000,000
gangs of new york - a shot from the film


buy the dvd from gangs of new york at

buy the dvd from gangs of new york at

set in new york City, 1840-1863, a young man named amsterdam seeks vengeance against bill "the butcher" poole, the man who killed his father.

during filming daniel day-lewis talked with his film accent during the entire time of production, even when he was not on the set.


picture from gangs of new york

picture from gangs of new york

picture from gangs of new york


four out of four possible stars

Gangs of New York is a project that had been on director Martin Scorsese's mind for over twenty years by the time filming began in Italy in September of 2000. And the result of so much hard work by so many people is plain to see on the screen, and the few flaws in this movie don't amount to much when all is said and done. Or when the credits start to roll, rather. You practically have to wipe the dirt off your feet when you leave the theater after seeing this film, the reality of 19th century New York is so expertly brought to life. And adding to that fact the great performances all around by the cast, the experience becomes even better and more rounded.

Possibly the only area where this film trips up (it doesn't ever fall, it's only a stumble) is in its editing and length. While the performances, scenery, cinematography, and music are all top notch, Scorsese might have trimmed a few things off this film and brought it to a short running time. The pace of the story definitely slows down in the second hour and although it pick back up again before the end, some additional restraint in the editing bay would have been beneficial. It's been said that Scorsese and the powers that be at Miramax had fighting matches over the length of this picture and amazingly, the producers seem to have been onto something....

But leaving behind any doubts about the length of this picture, the performances really do deserve a look. Especially Daniel Day-Lewis, who creates damn near the scariest villain in a film that's been seen anywhere in years. No, decades. Playing Bill "The Butcher," Day-Lewis is never without a giant stake, axe, or knife and adding to the picture his quite evil handlebar mustache and glass eye, and the result is a character that will make you want to run and hide, even though he's just on the screen. And adding that Day-Lewis's performance alone will probably earn him a trip down the aisle at the Academy Awards, and this film has one of the most three-dimensional and evil antagonists of any film in recent memory.

Flowery praise indeed, but every compliment this actor receives for his performance is well-deserved. Although Scorsese is known for his epic story filmmaking (Casino, Goodfellas, Kundun), the performances in his movies really do top most other films out there. Whether his films are box office successes or critical favorites or not, his movies always have incredible acting. Take Leonardo DiCaprio's performance as "Amsterdam Vallon" in Gangs. Though the press is usually more likely to cover his love-life than his acting ability, DiCaprio's performance in this film is stronger than anything he's done since This Boy's Life. He owes both Scorsese for bringing out in him such a powerful performance and himself for the smart choice in deciding to star in this film.

Part of the reason Gangs of New York "works" is that the motive driving DiCaprio's character is revenge. This motivation is a fail-safe story hook that will easily grip and audience and make them want to see the final confrontation between the main character and whoever that character is after. As it just happens to be Bill The Butcher that Amsterdam Vallon wants revenge on, the dynamic between these two characters is a strong emotional base for the movie to stand on. And the added benefit of some very interesting peripheral characters adds depth to the story as well. Playing DiCaprio's love interest, "Jenny Everdeane," Cameron Diaz improves her acting reputation by giving a performance that shows her continuing to hone her ability in front of the camera.

Though her character could have used more screen time (to make the romance with DiCaprio a more integral part of the story), she still makes the most of the scenes she has. As do John C. Reilly (playing a crooked cop) and Jim Broadbent (playing a crooked politician). While Reilly displays his talent for dramatic acting very well, Broadbent skillfully displays an interesting balance between the comedic and serious in his own character. Directors will surely snap up Broadbent in the coming years as being an Oscar token, as lately all his films have been nominated for awards. As this film is surely going to be.

The scope of the production and acting is so impressive that one cannot help but forgive Scorsese for wishing to prolong the theatrical experience by twenty or so minutes of screen time he might not have needed to include in the film. It should be noted that the film itself is a very bloody one (complete with entrails!!) and resembles the tone of Scorsese's very graphic style. But the dirty reality and lack of showers the characters looked to have forgotten makes the violence more accessible. As a last note, the musical score for this film is worth an entire review in and of itself. Combining an orchestral score with a diagetic use of song (that's music performed on camera for the scene), Howard Shore (with the help of Bono and Peter Gabriel) has created one of the most inventive musical scores in years.

From classic Irish vocals to feverish orchestral hits that sound almost caveman-like, Shore has ensured that Gangs of New York is a unique experience to listen to. And Scorsese has proven that he has a true talent for epic filmmaking. Telling the story of an individual amidst the carnage of real life events (like the building of New York City and the invasion of the Civil War in the 1860's) must have been a monster undertaking, but this film wrangles the whole idea into a very gripping few hours. And even if those few hours are a little on the long side, the time spent in the theater is still very worth the price of a ticket to see this epic on the big screen.

Review by Kelsey Wyatt.

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