Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Gangs of New York (2002)

Gangs of New York
Directed by Martin Scorsese
Starring: Leonardo Di Caprio, Daniel Day-Lewis, Cameron Diaz, Brendan Gleeson, Jim Broadbent
Grade: C

Scorsese, usually so good at fleshing out criminal networks and hierarchies, doesn’t quite get there with ‘Gangs’, torn between the various constraints of the story – historical accuracy, romance, and primarily the Jesse James-Robert Ford relationship between Day-Lewis and Di Caprio – that much of it feels overstuffed and undernourished. When he has to widen the scope and chart New York’s escalating lack of rule in the second half, the tone intensifies and the anarchic state of the city is shown through choppy editing and manic cinematography, which feels completely out of place with the rest of the movie. Its unevenness is – in many ways – a double-edged sword; While distracting, at least the erratic nature of ‘Gangs’ means that you can never really settle into it, the theatrical performance of Day-Lewis a disarming treat in itself, and the dourer elements of the period shown to be quite enterprising. As for any grander commentary on New York, the film takes two hours to establish a political system within the city (an election battle seemingly emerges from nowhere), affirming that its helmer may have had a little too much on his plate here.

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