Gangs of New York (2002): Scorsese’s Violent Epic, Starring DiCaprio and Day-Lewis

Though nominated for 10 Academy Awards (and losing each one of them), “Gangs of New York” is one of Martin Scorsese’s weakest epic films, a muddled and sprawling tale of revenge and violence.

Sharply uneven in every respect, the movie does not even look right; the film was shot on sound stages in Rome’s Cine Citta.

Considering that Scorsese has been wanting to make a movie out of Herbert Ashbury’s book of the same title since the 1970s, “Gangs of New York” is both simplistically formulaic and stylistically impersonal.
Set in 1846 in Lower Manhattan, this bloody immigrants tale begins with the murder of the Irish Priest Vallon (Liam Neeson) by Bill “The Butcher’ Cutting (Daniel Day-Lewis in a glorious performance), leader of the American-born Nativists in front of his young son, Amsterdam.
The tale then jumps ahead to a decade later to find the grown-up Amsterdam (Leonardo DiCaprio), having spent years at a church school, as a hard and embittered youngster who vows to avenge the brutal killing of his father at all costs.
Various writers had worked on the scenario, including Jay Cocks, Steve Zaillian, and playwright Kenneth Lonergan, and it shows. What begins as a richly anecdotal tale of nineteenth century street crime in New York quickly devolves into a simpler conventional vengeance saga, which somehow leaves the viewers uninvolved, even apathetic to the plot or characters.
One of the movie’s major flaws is its failure yo connect the intimate personal dramas with the broader socio-political contexts, and there is also misrepresentation of major events, such as the black riots of 1863.
Cameron Diaz is totally wasted in a small, cliched role,  as Jenny Everdeane, the prostitute with a heart of gold who become enamored of Amsterdam; she seems to be there because they needed a female and a star.
Every element in the film aspires it to be a genuinely historical epic, including running time of 165 minutes, and cinematography by Michael Ballhaus, who has shot other Scorsese films more successfully.
But ultimately, it’s a frustrating film on any level, a mudded affair, lacking unified vision and visual style.
The only reason to see this picture is Day-Lewis’ vividly compelling performance as Bill “the Butcher.”