Movie Review: GANGS OF NEW YORK (2002)

Published by Shah Shahid on

I never expected to see a Bollywood style saga from a Hollywood movie. However, the amazing Martin Scorsese provided an even more amazing movie similar to that style in the form of GANGS OF NEW YORK!

Rating: 3 Out Of 5

pure awesome-ness!

Now I hear everyone asking how such an amazing Hollywood movie is at all similar to Bollywood styled tune-stravaganzas? Well I’m obviously going to make my case so hold your questions till the end!

GANGS OF NEW YORK is your typical ‘son wants revenge for the death of his father’ storyline, done in a specific setting of the civil war era. However, instead of showing us how the various States and nation of USA was during the times of Lincoln and brother killing brother, like almost every other movie… Scorsese takes us to the streets of one of the greatest cities of the world… New York!

and this is how things looked…

It’s a time when the world is changing, African slaves have just been freed, political turmoil ensues, and Immigrants pour into USA. It’s at this time that being in a gang was as much about being organized and a representative of a minority group in society, as it was about going around laying beatdowns. This is how things worked.

One such gang leader was Liam Neeson’s Priest, an Irish Immigrant priest representing all the minorities in New York, who goes against the native (and basically racist) Daniel Day-Lewis’ Bill ‘The Butcher’ Cutting who thinks America should be for Americans. Priest is defeated and killed in front of his son, who flees, vows revenge and returns to carry it out 16 years later. This is the stuff that 70’s & 80’s Bollywood movies were made of!

neeson’s been a bad ass for a while…

Leonardo DiCaprio plays the Priest’s son Amsterdam who stumbles onto Bill upon his return home, who is now running things in the city, and gets close to him with ambitions of revenge. GANGS OF NEW YORK shows us this epic saga of son turning into father and a revenge story with the setting being as much an important character to the story as the characters themselves. As the world changes around these characters, so do their lives and they themselves. Some become obsolete, some rise from the ashes while others are forgotten altogether. This is GANGS OF NEW YORK!

Daniel Day-Lewis is not my favorite actor. He’s a great actor for sure; strong, talented and does great movies. Now, most of those movies aren’t my favorites either, as I just don’t like the types of slow and talky films he does. Personal taste. However, Bill ‘The Butcher’ Cutting is one of the most amazing characters in cinematic history!

he’s a bad ass murderer too…

For an antagonist, Bill is layered, tortured and incredibly complex. Sporting, also, one of the best moustaches in film history, Bill is vulnerable as he takes Amsterdam into his wing as an adopted son. His loneliness in a world where he’s worshiped is sad, and his scorn at being betrayed is fierce. It’s an amazing character played beautifully by Daniel Day-Lewis.

GANGS OF NEW YORK is when I started to not hate Leonardo DiCaprio. He’s decent in his portrayal of an immature, inexperienced and almost anxious son wanting revenge for his dad’s death. Day-Lewis definitely overwhelms DiCaprio and steals the show, despite the movie being about Amsterdam.

Leo’s character gets awesome by the end…

 Oh right… the Bollywood comparisons. Well besides the story being something taken out of 70’s pulp Bollywood, even the way the background score is implemented in the movie is very uniquely Bollywood. Background music that’s playing throughout a scene will flourish and be seen as live music in story, coming from minstrels or beggars off camera, as we pan out over the streets. Or intense confrontational music will be revealed at the end of another scene as being a band playing in the pub. This is usually a Bollywood aspect, of having in story singing and dancing weaved into the narrative of the story.

they’re gonna break out into dance any minute… can you feel it?!

Besides all that, the grandeur and larger than life style of GANGS OF NEW YORK make it very akin to a Bollywood feature. The extravagant outfits and sets, the organized gang warfare… it’s all beautiful and glorious!!

Martin Scorsese delivers with this one, as it’s got everything expected of a genius film. A simply elegant story, coupled with well thought out characters, performed incredibly by talented actors makes GANGS OF NEW YORK one of the greatest movies of its generation.

Get The Blu ray

Shah Shahid

Entertainment Writer | Film & TV Critic | Bollywood Blogger | Host of Split Screen Podcast | Proud Geek Girl Dad


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