I finally watched Lars von Trier's Dogville last week and I loved it, so I figured it was about time to watch another of those movies I've been putting off for years because of its length, Martin Scorsese's Gangs of New York.
It is set in 1863 when Gangs ran the streets of New York and the government couldn't or wouldn't gain control of the city, and it mainly focuses on Amsterdam Vallon (Leonardo DiCaprio), a young man whose father (Liam Neeson) was killed sixteen years before by Bill "the Butcher" Cutting (Daniel Day-Lewis), the leader of the most powerful gang in New York, and is now seeking revenge.
Scorsese's intention is pretty clear, he wanted to make a realistic, historically accurate movie about the story of New York. The problem is that he chose a revenge plot that isn't of the most compelling as it is entirely predictable and with a resolution and could and should have come a lot earlier. As for the history of New York, specifically of lower Manhattan, it is quite messy and confusing because there's too much going on —abolitionism, immigration, racism, to name a few of the topics— and not enough time to address all these issues properly. The story did start out interesting, but eventually, it lost my interest completely.
The characters aren't very helpful either. Amsterdam Vallon has to be one of the weakest leading characters ever. He's more of a supporting Character in his own story than anything else as he lacks characterization and development. He is not interesting and you just don't care about his fate. Leonardo DiCaprio is quite dreadful in the role as he lacks the presence requested by such a role. Bill "the Butcher" Cutting is one of the most cartoonish villains out there and yet he is way more charming and interesting than the guy we are supposed to root for, and the credits entirely go to Daniel Day-Lewis who yet again, despite the script, gives a strong performance and makes quite a threatening villain and ends up being the only compelling thing in Gangs of New York. The rest of the characters and cast are just mediocre, Cameron Diaz and her Jenny Everdeane being the worst of them all as her performance is terrible as always and her character exists for no reason whatsoever.
It's the direction, however, the most disappointing aspect of the film. Gangs of New York looks amateurish at its best —some shots are so ugly they make your eyes hurt—, the editing is choppy, the action isn't exciting and the humour not only doesn't add anything to the film, but it makes it look cheap. The scenery is quite beautiful and the costumes are well done but overall I think Gangs of New York is quite an overrated film. If I didn't know it, I would have never guessed Martin Scorsese was behind this.