Gangs of New York (2002)
Rated R

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Daniel Day-Lewis, and Cameron Diaz

out of

Martin Scorsese has made some great films over the course of his career. GoodFellas, Raging Bull, andTaxi Driver are some of the better films ever made. Of course, he's made some career missteps too, like Bringing Out the Dead, Michael Jackson's "Bad" video and, yes, Gangs of New York.

Gangs of New York looks as if it was put together to be an epic film. Not because of the story that is being told but a film that was constructed to be massive and as over-the-top as possible. It's certainly over-the-top, but it's not very cohesive or enjoyable.

Gangs of New York attempts to tell the story of Amsterdam (Leonardo DiCaprio), who plots to avenge the death of his father, "Priest" Vallon. "Priest" was the leader of a gang of Irish immigrants called the Dead Rabbits, who ran afoul of Bill "The Butcher" Cutting's gang of "Native" Americans in a turf war over control of an area of New York City called Five Points. I wish that was all the movie was about, but it also wants to be about the Civil War, injustice to immigrants, political corruption, and, oh, possibly a love story.

The film meanders from telling the story of Amsterdam's attempt at revenge to a love story involving Cameron Diaz' character. From there, it tries to make points about the poor being forced to fight in the Civil War, the North's true feelings about slavery and, well, a lot of other stuff. My head ached trying to keep some sort of focus on what was happening and why I should even care about certain elements at all.

The movie is certainly a treat to look at and it's obvious that a lot of time and effort went into the construction of a reasonable facsimile of 19th Century New York, but the inane plot and unfocused nature of the story (or stories, actually) being told make viewing this film more of an endurance exercise than a pleasure.

Trivia: The 19th century New York accent had to be made up/guessed. (Source: The Internet Movie Database)

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