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Gangs of New York

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Gangs of New York

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Daniel Day-Lewis
Director: Martin Scorsese
Rated: R
RunTime: 164 Minutes
Release Date: December 2002
Genres: Action, Drama

*Also starring: Cameron Diaz, Jim Broadbent, John C. Reilly, Brendan Gleeson, Henry Thomas, Liam Neeson, Cara Seymour, Barbara Bouchet

Review by Steve Rhodes
2 stars out of 4

Martin Scorsese's GANGS OF NEW YORK, which was supposed to have opened last Christmas, finally opened on this one. A rambling, bloated, would-be epic, it's more vaudeville theater than it is a serious movie. They could cut an hour out of this almost three hour film, and you'd never know the difference. The expensive sets reek authenticity, and the movie is so over the top and silly, that you'll find yourself thinking of the sets as a prototype for a new Gangland area of Disneyland.

The movie's opening looks like WEST SIDE STORY as choreographed by Hieronymus Bosch. In this initial "dustup" -- the movie is filled with so much period lingo that you'll want a Berlitz guide -- Priest Vallon (Liam Neeson) is killed by Bill the Butcher (Daniel Day-Lewis). After the battle is over, Bill tells his gang, "Ears and noses shall be the trophies of the day." Bill orders that the name of Vallon's losing gang, the "Dead Rabbits," will never again be spoken. Vallon's son, Amsterdam (Leonardo DiCaprio), grows up and returns to become Bill's right-hand man, while secretly planning to kill him.

Day-Lewis and DiCaprio both deliver excellent performances, and it's not because of them that the movie is never able to connect with its audience. Day-Lewis appears so gaunt and long-legged that you'll swear he's on stilts. His large stove pipe hat and his big mustache reinforce the aforementioned vaudeville analogy.

The dialog alternates between the outrageous and the pretentious. "It wasn't a city really," Amsterdam lectures us in voice-over. "It was a furnace where later a city would be forged."

Cameron Diaz plays Jenny Everdeane, a pickpocket -- which, of course, was called something else entirely back then. My favorite scene of hers is a pseudo-erotic one in which she agrees to let Amsterdam feel her scars if he'll let her feel his. Both actors somehow manage to keep straight faces during this episode, although I bet there are a lot of outtakes in which they couldn't.

The emotionally inert film ends in a long orgy of gratuitous violence. But, since Scorsese never creates any genuine characters, I couldn't have cared less about who lived and who died.

GANGS OF NEW YORK runs a ridiculously long 2:48. It is rated R for "intense strong violence, sexuality/nudity and language" and would be acceptable for older teenagers.

Copyright 2002 Steve Rhodes

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