Gangs of New York: America was Born in the Streets (2002)

Posted: April 25, 2011 in Crime, Drama, History

Starting with a slaughter in the streets, the young Amsterdam Vallon watches his father “The Priest” get taken down by the rival leader, “the Butcher.” Escaping capture from the rival gang, he disappears until adulthood and returns to seek vengeance on his father’s killer. Returning to New York, he discovers that the old gang has become more integrated into the environment and the Butcher holds power over everyone around him. Even the fire brigades engage in gang fighting, but still under the watchful eye of the the Butcher. Initially hiding among his ranks, he builds a relationship with his enemy, but a growing relationship with Five Points classy pickpocket Jenny Everdeane both threatens to challenge his vengeance and support his rise as the rival gang leader.

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio (Amsterdam Vallon), Daniel Day-Lewis (Bill ‘the Butcher’ Cutting), Cameron Diaz (Jenny Everdeane), Jim Broadbent (William ‘Boss’ Tweed), John C. Reilly (Happy Jack Mulraney), Henry Thomas (Johnny Sirocco), Liam Neeson (‘Priest’ Vallon), Brendan Gleeson (Walter ‘Monk’ McGinn), Gary Lewis (McGloin), Stephen Graham (Shang), Eddie Marsan (Killoran), Cara Seymour (Hell-Cat Maggie)

Leonardo DiCaprio plays the lead with a taste for revenge. He appears to have a visceral lust for blood which he is able to hide until he is exposed at a significant gathering in Five Points. While not a natural leader, he soon learns that if he wants to achieve success he will have to rise up with a new force against the Butcher. Cameron Diaz has an impeccable charm with the camera as she is a pickpocket you can enjoy. She has a strong personality in a society that clearly has women at a lower level than the rough and tumble male dominance. Daniel Day-Lewis is the iron-fisted Butcher. He consistently exudes a need to exhibit his power over others, whether he manipulates his followers or takes his competition out through direct violence. Liam Neeson has a small role but manages to make an impact with his strong stature and leadership against the Butcher.

Martin Scorsese’s hit release exhibits a story where the violence ran the streets of New York and dominance was achieved through taking out your opposing gang leader. The Five Points was developed to be a pool of crime and constant battle for supremacy. Scorsese sets the scene with the initial battle which pits natives against immigrants. This transforms into a constant struggle for the immigrants to feel like they have a place in the city out of the grasp of the Butcher’s reign. In order to survive the Butcher’s power, the immigrants scrape together whatever they can find to survive until they are given a chance to leap back into battle. The film includes some rather gruesome fight sequences to help display the aggression that overtook Five Points.

This is definitely a powerful movie with the violence and suspense of the tension between the gangs.

Dan’s Rating: 3.5/5

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