When you kill a king, you don't stab him in the dark. You kill him where the entire court can watch him die.
A review by Mike Shea Movie Rating: ( * * * * * ) DVD Rating: ( * * * * * )
Gangs of New York is proof that Bringing Out the Dead was a far stretch from the kind of films we're used to seeing Scorsese, Gangs shows a growth without a loss of his dark and brutal eye. Gangs of New York is an excellent movie.
He grins at the corrupt police officer and lightly taps his American eagle glass eye with the tip of a butcher's knife, making everyone around, including the audience, very uncomfortable. Joe Pesci characters from Goodfella's and Casino. He's horrible but has an honor among thieves. Bill's love for his fallen enemy is articulated in the movie's best scene, a scene where Bill talks to Amsterdam about his first battle against his father. He sits quietly in a rocking chair, wrapped into an american flag, a bullet having just been removed from his arm. He recounts his first battle, a battle where he plucked out his own eye to make a point.
Gangs of New York is a movie about big hats. The hats are everywhere, often so big that they cannot fit in the frame of the picture. There must be over two thousand different hats, over two dozen just for Bill the Butcher alone. The detail in both costumes and sets in Gangs is astonishing, big hats included. Scorsese's strength is his eye for a shot and willingness to use a more modern style, particularly in the first battle for the empire of the Five Points. The disjointed frame-rate switch, between 12 and 48 fps, and a modern sound track is a nice switch from what has become the standard effects for combat scenes based on Black Hawk Down.
The DVD for Gangs of New York is a gem in any collection. It includes a sharp and colorful 2.35 to 1 16x9 enhanced picture and both Dolby Digital and DTS soundtracks. The movie includes a commentary with Scorsese with a lot of background on both the movie and the history. There is also a 35 minute Discovery channel documentary on the making of the movie. The movie is split across two discs, the only disadvantage of this otherwise excellent DVD. If you like the movie this is a DVD to own.
Movies based on half truths of historical events are always a gamble. Movies should either be true fantasy or true history. History with dramatic license can break even the best movies. Gangs of New York takes this gamble and wins. While the best reason to see this movie is to watch Daniel Day-Lewis as Bill the Butcher, the rest of it holds together well enough to make an excellent movie. With so much crap out there now, movies like Gangs of New York look even better. Buy it and watch it.