I really love this film. It is one of if not my favorite movie of the decade. The general consensus is that it is a mediocre/good film but a lesser work from Scorsese. I’m curious, to the people who feel this way, why? And is there anyone else who holds this film as highly as me?
I don’t think Scorsese makes very personal films, which is why I think he’s somewhat overrated as good as his films are, but he really knows character. I think this film lacks that character (except Daniel Day Lewis, but he’s an exception in regards to mostly everything). It feels much more hollow, and empty than Goodfellas, or Mean Streets, or even Who’s that Knocking at My Door? It certainly has some good lines in it, though.
I agree it felt sort of hollow but I have to be honest, its probably one of the more enjoyable films I have seen in the past decade….
I don’t feel a movie has to be autobiographical to be personal. We are lucky that Scorsese grew up around the gangster lifestyle so he could make accurate, great, personal films but that doesn’t mean all films have to be about this. I grew up in boring suburbia and so I would be screwed if a personal film had to be autobiographical.
Im not sure here but I think Col.dax was getting more at a personal thematic more attuned to auteurism rather then strict autobiographical narrative elements.
i.e. I can stil connect to films such as Terrorizers for its portrayals of urban isolationism even though I have never been to Taipei, am not Taiwanese and do not live in a major urban center.
This was a film I had high expectations for (Daniel Day Lewis, Leonardo Dicaprio and Liam Neeson – yeah baby!) but was left feeling empty. It’s one of my least favorite Scorcese pictures. I just felt it was flat.
This was a film that took me to a new world. One of pain, compromise, desire, and dirt. Flat? How is lust flat? How is violence flat? Hollow? What is hollow about revenge? What is hollow about failure? Tell me you walked away from that film and wondered who The Butcher’s character was and what he was fighting for. Tell me that you didn’t understand the hostility of the Irish. Tell me five points was really a clean neighborhood.
It put me there. In the middle of a feud. In the dirt. In the blood. But most importantly; in the hate.
someone once told me they felt this picture had too much fat in it. i don’t agree. the film was long for a reason; there was alot of story to be told. yea, it had some weak moments, but all in all this film always excited me. the biggest part of that was the character of Bill the Butcher, played SO FUCKING PERFECTLY by Daniel Day Lewis. the other part was the plot…although the revenge factor seems a bit forced at times, the idea of this young man, Amsterdam, trying to get in so close to the man he hates he eventually sees something fatherly and loveable in this vile and wicked prince of the criminal world is just brilliantly played. if anything, i wish the last half the of the film was shorter and they’d focused on more attention to Amsterdam and Bill’s relationship. the film itself, however, was satisfying as it was. a great and entertaining spectacle, that wasn’t afraid to force history down its audience’s throats. it wasn’t 100% accurate, but it wasn’t a bad guess, from what i’ve read.
Gangs hinges on a plot device — infiltration of the enemy camp — that Scorsese must have found intriguing, as he would use it again four years later in The Departed, his American adaptation of Moo gaan dou (Infernal Affairs).
Both Gangs and The Departed explore the idea that it is possible, perhaps inevitable, to be drawn into the world of the enemy and maybe even bond with them, whom you deal with day in, day out, as part of the subterfuge.
Amsterdam looked to Bill the Butcher as a father/older brother figure even as he resolved to kill the man. Likewise, in The Departed, undercover cop Billy Costigan begins to see Frank Costello as a sort of mentor/father figure while simultaneously determining to bring him down.
This sets up an interesting inner conflict with the hero characters — they’ve sworn an oath to destroy their enemies, criminals all, and yet they are vaguely drawn to them even in the midst of their hatred.
In both films, DiCaprio plays a character who is orphaned and essentially adrift. Pursuit of the bad guy, who also happens to represent a potential paternal figure, gives the DiCaprio characters a purpose, gives them meaning in life.
These are the sorts of character qualities that set Scorsese pictures apart from your typical cops & robbers fare. There is a depth and complexity to the characters that is more interesting than all the violence and obscenity that Scorsese can muster in the service of spectacle.
Really, characters in moral conflict are the common thread running through all of Scorsese’s work.
I don’t see Gangs of New York as a failure, or flat, or anything less than an ambitious historical epic with a runaway budget.
It is to Scorsese what Apocalypse Now is to Coppolla. Let me be clear: I am not comparing the films in terms of quality (clearly, Apocalypse is by far the superior film). What I am saying is that the scope of both projects nearly overwhelmed their directors, both of whom still returned from a difficult location shoot with fascinating but admittedly flawed films.
I think Scorsese is best when at his most intimate, when concentrating on a single character or on a small concentrated group of people. When he goes for the epic, his films lose focus and just meander all over the place. GANGS OF NEW YORK and THE DEPARTED and AGE OF INNOCENCE all fall apart under their own weight, the attempt to capture an Entire Society.
The biggest problem I had with the film was DiCaprio’s performance. He just never convinced me that he was a little Irish tough kid, there’s just no danger at all in his performance. I never believed for a minute he had ever actually been in a fight in his life. To be fair, DiCaprio finally got it right for his performance in THE DEPARTED, but I think Matt Damon would have been a better choice for the lead in GANGS.
And GANGS isn’t that bad of a movie, especially when compared with that dreadful DEPARTED thing. GANGS at least has Day Lewis’ magnificent Bill Cutting, and some fine production elements.
I just felt like for all of the characters that Marty introduced us to, he didn’t spend enough time with each. I’d really like to see an extended cut of Gangs, as I feel that if I had more time with the characters and situations it could be a really great film.
This was one of the First Scorsese films i did not enjoy. On the surface it was the fact that it is full of people i do not care for, Leonardo DiCaprio, Daniel Day-Lewis, Liam Neeson and Cameron Diaz was just out of place.
I just did not connect with the story or care about any of the people. Not Scorsese’s fault but mine for disliking the players.
But staring with Bring out the dead i have not cared for any of his films. Not that i loved all before it. I am one of the few who don’t care for Goodfellas.
I don’t think it would have been any good if it weren’t for Daniel Day Lewis
I love the shit out of it.
Cinematic Steve – Coincidentally, The Departed is my other least favorite of Scorcese picture. I actually liked Age of Innocence better than this one. So it’s interesting that you compared the two. I wonder if this says something about my lack of interest in the “infiltration of the enemy camp” plot devices you speak of. Hmmmm! I do feel I do have to give Departed another shot, though.
I have to agree with Roscoe on this one. However, I did find The Aviator to be quite exceptional. Is this why Scorcese’s mob movies tend to be his most favored? Perhaps it’s because he has closer ties to these New York neighborhoods and lifestyles.
Much like “Kundun”, and even “Casino”, I think “Gangs” suffers from expectations. I also think much of the generally grouped complaints around “flat”, “long”, etc. at least partially comes down to the result of the characters actions become almost meaningless by the end. This of course is by design and to these ears seem as strange as stating “Adaptation” is less interesting in the second half or that “The Shining” is spare and slow. If memory serves Lisa Schwarzbaum called “Gangs” “a flawed masterpiece” and although I wouldn’t go that far, it’s close enough to repeat. I think I’ve seen it four times and each time I’ve been more forgiving of its errors and more amazed by its successes. Interestingly, the last few times I’ve seen the superior “Goodfellas” I’ve gone the opposite direction. It will be interesting to see how this film is viewed in 10-15 years.
Finally, I’m waiting for the time “Apocalypse Now” is realized to be the sham it is. ;)
Blessing – Whoa! Apocalypse Now a sham? I felt that one was a work of crazed and desparate genius. I’ve had Vietnam vets tell me it was the most realistic portrayal of life in Vietnam they had ever seen, and it was Hearts of Darkness set to the backdrop of Vietnam. If that isn’t authenticity I don’t know what is.
I love Gangs, but I find it a frustrating experience and a disappointment at the same time. It has some amazing stuff in it. Unfortunately, Di Caprio isn’t quite up to the task, although I thought he was terrific in The Aviator and he gets better with each film (best thing in The Departed, an otherwise sub-standard Scorsese film).
It would have been a much better film without the big budget. There is so much going on in gangs, and with less screen time devoted to the mediocte Diaz-Di Caprio love interest, Scorsese could have spent more time on the history and the rituals of the gangs, which is where his true interest lies.
The budget sometimes leads to some inauthenticities, and I think a more experimental, edgy film would have been made with less money. Also, I think he had the project so long that he evolved in so many directions, and it’s a shame it never got made in the late 70s/early 80s by a Scorsese who was still taking risks.
i will agree with the poor casting of Cameron Diaz and Leonardo DiCaprio. i normally like Leo and think he’s proven to be a good actor (maybe not great), but he didn’t cut it for me in that role. he looked too much like a Hollywood pretty boy trying to look tough, whereas his role in The Departed he looked like a good looking kid from a nice family who had to act like a tough kid from the ’hood.
Cameron Diaz i just don’t care for. it was kind of cool to see her away from the stupid romantic comedies, but not sure if she was the best choice for Jenny. still, neither choice made the film unwatchable so casting can be forgiven to me.
Marq – I’m in agreement about the casting. DiCaprio’s and Diaz’s chemistry was, wait, there was no chemistry. Diaz in general can really mess up a film, and Dicaprio is the guy all the casting agents say “Let’s try and get Leonardo Dicaprio for the role.” “Wouldn’t Leo Dicaprio make a great Captain Ahab? Yeaaaah! Let’s call his agent.” It reminds me of Altman’s “The Player.” Don’t know if you saw it, but all the producers and agents were saying “Let’s get Bruce Willis.”
Gangs is not bad film, but it’s nowhere near as good as Raging Bull, Goodfellas, and Taxi Driver.
This film fell flatter than a pancake for me. It was one of those film scripts Scorcese should have kept locked away in his desk drawer, as even his actors couldn’t breathe much life into this over-blown and badly-scripted story. A failure of massive proportions considering the talent involved. Even the usually brilliant Day-Lewis couldn’t redeem this disaster for me. Sorry, but I hope to never see it again, and it almost put me off trying future Scorcese projects. What has happened to the brilliant director of the 70’s and 80’s (and even 90’s) to put out this type of twaddle? Those of you who love this film, that is the type of film you love…
What Bob said …
Gangs is a ______ movie and a very ambitious effort by Scorsesse, perhaps THE most ambitious of his career being his biggest film up to that point. A titanic budget, shooting for over a year, press talking shit, and the story had the makings of a disaster…or a memorable movie considering the subject matter.
The problem with hollywood, and the people that run it, is they never seem to pay attention to the cheapest thing: the screenplay. Any film this enormous has to have a concrete screenplay in order to work, since the expense is paid on getting the mammoth production underway it can easily swallow the story which you can’t fix while you’re shooting. I was very surprised by the way it turned out, not because it was bad, but because the problems could have been fixed in post. The pacing is really uneven, and thus the story suffers at the end with no real conclusion. 9/11 had just happened, so stamping those towers at the end took the film out of it’s spell and into the real world.
Bad decisions made across the board, and the blame goes to Scorsesse…
There are fundamental issues on the film, namely in structure. Whether the cuts suffered on the last act resulted from fighting with Harvey Weinstein over the lenght, the film really had a mediocre climax after a strong set up. It should have led it’s storyline right till the end, and the editing of the last act was choppy by Thelma Schoonmaker I never thought I’d say this) and Scorsesse standards.
Casting Dicaprio and a miscast Cameron Diaz ensured it’s investment, but that’s precisely the reason why the film didn’t work: it spent all the time on the least interesting characters with no clear focus. I could appreciate the film’s production design and cinematography by Michael Ballhaus, and Daniel Day Lewis is the only reason the film clicked for me. Now, it’s also unfairly judged against his previous films that made his name, so that in itself is another story. I guess the hype couldn’t sustain it.
You know what? I’d rather watch this than The Departed. I fucking hate that movie, now THAT’S A mediocre Scorsesse film…if there ever was one (bringing out the dead is the other one).
Not one of his best efforts, but the man has been taking it easy since.
Bob, it’s good to see your thoughts on the board again. I’ve been keeping a low profile but I sneak around a post here and then…
“Those of you who love this film, that is the type of film you love…”
Bob-i looked at your profile. we like alot of the same films. don’t be a dick! please?
Marq: I usually don’t slam a film, but I just couldn’t get into this one. My comments were just my own personal view, and not meant to offend. I think you have to look at this film objectively, against all the best films by this very director. If you like it, fine! Who am I to criticize anyone’s taste? I was just being honest, and not hedge, but if that is offensive, I regret it. We can’t all have the same taste or agree on each particular film – that’s what make us individuals, with our own built-in prejudices and limitations. I could just have been quiet, as I usually am when I don’t like something, but that is too boring, sometimes. I like to stir things, too, as do many others on site. But this is all harmless irreverence, and not to be taken seriously – so please don’t.
I am paraphrasing a quote from Maggie’s Smith’s character in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, where it is to be taken ironically, not seriously, so have a laugh, please! Maggie Smith’s character always said what she thought, but it is often not the right thing – as those who have seen the film can attest. I could be way off re this film, but keep a perspective. If you love it, don’t let me put you off by a film quote out of context.
Alanedit: Thanks – I have been keeping a low profile lately, too, and for good reason it looks like. I will continue to do so. Every thing you say here gets you in trouble, it seems, with someone. Oh, well…
yea I don’t think Bob was trying to be confrontational at all. To be honest, it is definitely nor Scorsese’s best admittedly, but I still enjoyed it on a purely entertaining context.
…and god Diaz is a terrible terrible actress
Boy, I’d just like to know what Marty’s got against the Irish. Stop punishing us and get your ass back to Little Italy!
Samuryan: Ha – wonderful stuff. That’s what I meant. Great!