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Films >> Gangs of New York (2002) >>

1) Day-Lewis has never been better, developing Bill the Butcher into an incredibly conflicted, complex individual who radiates equal parts charm and evil, charisma, and sadism. (James Berardinelli)

2) The linchpin is Day-Lewis, effortlessly upstaging co-stars DiCaprio and Cameron Diaz. (Peter Bradshaw)

3) Today when audiences go into the past, they want fantasy. They're not looking to pay for history lessons. (Richard Corliss)

4) Tall and lean, with a glass eye and a huge handlebar mustache (you could hang Christmas ornaments from it), Day-Lewis swaggers about the neighborhood in a stovepipe headpiece and speaks in a pancake-flat American accent. (David Denby)

5) The vivid achievement of Scorsese's film is to visualize this history and people it with characters of Dickensian grotesquerie. (Roger Ebert)

6) Daniel Day-Lewis plays William Cutting, aka "Bill the Butcher," who, in his stove-top hat and long maroon waistcoat, is almost a demonic twin of Uncle Sam: HE DOESN'T WANT YOU! (David Edelstein)

7) Cutting is nicknamed Bill the Butcher and likes cutting up dead animals and live people. (Philip French)

8) It's the movie's one great achievement and can't be dismissed. Scorsese takes us to a New York we never knew existed and shows us so much we can almost smell it. (Mick LaSalle)

9) Bill the Butcher would stand out in any case as a most complex and determined villain, but Day-Lewis, in his return to acting after a five-year hiatus, elevates him to mythic status. Day-Lewis's performance is so powerful, so layered, and ultimately so disturbing that it keeps everyone and everything else in its shadow. (John Petrakis)

10) A work of staggering ambition, grandeur, and terrible beauty. In a word: majestic (Nev Pierce)

11) Furtive, skulking, self-effacing, just generally soft, DiCaprio is no match for the ferocious Day-Lewis. (Joe Queenan)

12) If the look of a movie were enough to guarantee greatness, Gangs of New York would be a masterpiece. (Peter Rainer)

13) This anarchic inferno is, in Amsterdam's words, not so much a city as ''a cauldron in which a great city might be forged.” (A. O. Scott)

14) Here is a historical epic that fudges a few facts, tacks on a pandering love story, and trips on its own grand ambitions. (Peter Travers)

15) We see here the birth pangs of the greatest American city in all of its ugliness. (James Berardinelli)

16) So there are quibbles and quarrels galore to be had with Gangs of New York. But this is a flawed masterpiece we're talking about. (Peter Bradshaw)

17) In between are violent scenes played out with a ferocity as erotic as it is deranged; murder and mutilation, when performed by men who have been close, are acts more intimate than sex. (Richard Corliss)

18) He's a consciously theatrical monster, and Day-Lewis--an actor playing an actor--returns to performing with a glee that he's never shown before. (David Denby)

19) Bill the Butcher is one of the great characters in modern movies. (Roger Ebert)

20) The film in its current state cries out for a wider canvas, for more and longer scenes of the universe outside its central triangle of movie stars and ham-fisted melodrama. (David Edelstein)

21) If the snow represents the pristine America contested by the waves of immigrants, the pools that mingle the lifeblood of natives, immigrants, and blacks stand for the lives sacrificed to create New York. (Philip French)

22) This movie was born to dominate the skyline, but it can't—it's overshadowed by its own aspirations. (James Hoberman)

23) Though big in size, "Gangs" isn't big in ideas. The lavish setting just lends color to what turns out to be a very simple story. (Mick LaSalle)

24) This epic has two major stars. One is the neighborhood, which is beautifully shot. . . The other star is Day-Lewis. (John Petrakis)

25) It is a performance [Day-Lewis’s] that literally must be seen to be believed. I saw the movie twice just to make sure it wasn't the cold medication I was taking. (Joe Queenan)

26) Ms. Diaz ends up with no outlet for her spitfire energies, since her character is more a structural necessity -- the linchpin of male jealousy -- than a fully imagined person. (A. O. Scott)

27) What Scorsese achieves in Gangs of New York is defiantly untrendy: a triumph of pure craft and passionate heart. You can wait around and hope, but you won't see this kind of epic filmmaking again. (Peter Travers)

28) Gangs of New York is an example of a production in which the whole is less than the sum of its elements. (James Berardinelli)

29) It's a movie with a thousand times more energy and life and sheer virility than anything else Hollywood has to offer. (Peter Bradshaw)

30) One amazing panorama shows men coming off a ship from Ireland being immediately conscripted and outfitted in Northern blue, then put on a troop ship — all in a single shot that ends with a view of the troop ship's cargo: 20 coffins on the dock. (Richard Corliss)

31) For all its labored realism, "Gangs" never comes alive as a dramatic conception. (David Denby)

32) Scorsese is probably our greatest active American director (Robert Altman is another candidate), and he has given us so many masterpieces that this film, which from another director would be a triumph, arrives as a more measured accomplishment. (Roger Ebert)

33) Suddenly Amsterdam's tribe—until now the good guys—are shown lynching many newly emancipated African-Americans and getting blown away by federal troops; and the death-struggle between Amsterdam and Bill becomes absurdly beside the point. (David Edelstein)

34) It is instructive to be reminded that modern America was forged not in quiet rooms by great men in wigs, but in the streets, in the clash of immigrant groups, in a bloody Darwinian struggle. (Roger Ebert)

35) In its present form, anyway, Day-Lewis upstages this whole bloody stew of a movie. It's a wondrously, overpoweringly weird piece of acting. (David Edelstein)

36) Scorsese's tale of mid-19th-century New York City is an anachronizing anachronism—a personal epic, proudly out of season. (James Hoberman)

37) When Day-Lewis is onscreen, there's no other actor worth looking at. (Mick LaSalle)

38) His Old New York is a gaudy multiethnic carnival of misrule, music, and impromptu theater, a Brueghel painting come to life. (A. O. Scott)

39) It's a performance of seductive wit and animal ferocity. Acting doesn't get better than this. (Peter Travers)

40) Meaner than mean streets have been excavated by Scorsese here: this is an archaeology of desperation, tribal rage, and primeval urban energy. (Peter Bradshaw)

41) Gangs of New York is the director's proclamation that all his movies about belligerent young men are modern-dress versions of a crucial melodrama that shaped urban America. (Richard Corliss)

42) What the design doesn't much suggest, however, is New York itself. (David Denby)

43) In one overhead, the carnage suggests a bloody Brueghel canvas with two dozen individuated cruelties going on at once. (James Hoberman)

44) He wants not only to reconstruct the details of life in a distant era but to construct, from the ground up, a narrative of historical change, to explain how we -- New Yorkers, Americans, modern folk who disdain hand-to-hand bloodletting and overt displays of corruption -- got from there to here, how the ancient laws gave way to modern ones. (A. O. Scott)

45) For 168 minutes, Scorsese leaves the blood on his film's slashing blade. (Peter Travers)

46) The streets erupt in a saturnalia of lawlessness, to which the director adds an inspired touch: an escaped elephant from Barnum's circus trumpeting down the rubble-strewn streets. Wonderful spectacle, terrific acting, and toweringly great film-making. (Peter Bradshaw)

47) Bill is a madman explicating his fiercely literal sense of honor, and Day-Lewis, wriggling his finger to suggest eye-gouging, gives us the chills as only a great actor can. (David Denby)

48) Five Points is the land of nonstop thud and crash, the kingdom of arson and looting, the domain of fisticuffs—not to mention black clog dancers and strolling Irish string bands. (James Hoberman)

49) I said earlier that ''Gangs of New York'' is nearly a great movie. I suspect that, over time, it will make up the distance. (A. O. Scott)

50) Five Points was the most notorious neighborhood in nineteenth-century America. (Tyler Anbinder)

51) The basic creed of the gangster, and for that matter of any other type of criminal, is that whatever a man has is his only so long as he can keep it. (Herbert Asbury)

52) Once again a cultural enterprise designed to mitigate the divisiveness of metropolitan life had served only to exacerbate it. (Burrows and Wallace)

53) Until July 1863, most of the rioters had led quiet, respectable lives. Very few had any records of involvement with the law. (Adrian Cook)

54) The behavior of some rioters was worse than that of savages. (Edward Spann)

55) To penetrate beneath the thick veil of night and lay bare the fearful mysteries of darkness in the metropolis—the festivities of prostitution, the orgies of pauperism, the haunts of theft and murder, the scenes of drunkenness and beastly debauch, and all the sad realities that go to make up the lower stratum—the under-ground story—of life in New York! (George Foster)

56) The remedy that shall be an effective answer to the coming appeal for justice must proceed from the public conscience. Neither legislation nor charity can cover the ground. (Jacob Riis)

57) Overall, we have a picture of a great metropolis drawing on its national and international connections and on its organizational skills to help win a great domestic conflict. On the opposing side, though, we have a highly insular city in its political and social outlook, a city that shared some of the same values that animated the Confederacy. (Edward Spann)

58) With its energy, brutality, enterprise, hardship and constant dramas, Five Points was an extreme case, yet still a deeply American place. (Tyler Anbinder)

59) By 1855 it was estimated that the metropolis contained at least thirty thousand men who owed allegiance to the gang leaders. (Herbert Asbury)

60) In 1849 there were 3,814 licensed drinking establishments in the city; by 1852, there were 5,780—to say nothing of the many places that illegally sold liquor. (Edward Spann)

61) On one side was the growing immigrant working class, with its own culture, its own politics. On the other side was a wealthy and anxious bourgeoisie, trying not very successfully to impose its vision of domestic and civic relations on those below. (Burrows and Wallace)

62) How can he fail, under these circumstances, to imbibe a thorough dislike of an aristocracy he believes to be absolutely his inferiors—who possess no natural nor political rights over himself—and whose one solitary point of distinction is that they have more money than he? (George Foster)

63) Long ago it was said that “one half of the world does not know how the other half lives.” That was true then. It did not know because it did not care. (Jacob Riis)

64) The metropolis was still a white man’s world devoted to keeping black Americans in “their place.” (Edward Spann)

65) If you lived in this place [Five Points}, you would ask for whiskey instead of milk. (Tyler Anbinder)

66) Editor Walt Whitman contended that nineteen of every twenty males—including “the best classes of Men” in Brooklyn and New York—visited brothels regularly. (Burrows and Wallace)

67) It was difficult to ignore the thought that behind these outcasts lay a deeper well of poverty embracing unknown thousands of unseen poor, those “who are not beggars, and yet are liable at any moment to be reduced to beggary.” (Edward Spann)

68) It is no unusual thing for a mother and her two or three daughters—all of course prostitutes—to receive their “men” at the same time and in the same room. (George Foster)

69) The Draft Riots may have cost Horatio Seymour the presidency of the United States (Adrian Cook)

70) For the principle work of canon-formation is nothing more than the selection of what will continue to be studied and taught and remembered. Perhaps then the film’s final words echo Scorsese’s own anxieties, how for all an artist’s toil and struggle, they too, in the end, remain the fools of fortune and the caprices of time. (Craig Tepper)

71) A ten-year-old girl named Jane Barry, who was standing on the sidewalk watching the scene, was hit by a bureau and killed instantly. (Adrian Cook)

72) If it did nothing else, Nativism served to drive naturalized citizens into politics, usually on the side of the Democratic party, in defense of their interests as new Americans. (Edward Spann)

73) Like the street battle that starts Who’s That Knocking, city space is here used to present a world in which social roles are strictly defined and borders are violently maintained. (Paula Massood)

74) The gentle understatement underscores one of the film’s clearest triumphs. Few if any can boast its sustained richness of spoken language. Beyond its argot, there is speech with range and color, nuanced wit, thunderous bombast and insults of unrivaled vividness. (Craig Tepper)

75) In this city, a space as innocuous as a corner can signify power, belonging, and identity. This is the New York Martin Scorsese captures in his film. (Paula Massood)

76) The problem isn’t that Scorsese took liberties with the facts, since that is the prerogative of artists, Gilfoyle explains, but that “Scorsese sees himself as a historian.” (Alice Rutkowski)

77) The Butcher’s last words resonate, deliberately leaving open a number of interpretations. Not the least would seem to be that in a nation of immigrants one only truly becomes an American in “dying,” in the sacrament of battle. (Craig Tepper)

78) Previous generations of writers may have exaggerated certain aspects of life in Five Points, but the truth is that the conditions there were quite wretched. (Tyler Anbinder)

79) The artistic achievement of film director Martin Scorsese stands unsurpassed in the history of Italian Americans. (Robert Casillo)

80) It’s this “sheer love of cinema” that animates the films of American and French auteurs alike. (Lawrence Friedman)

81) As an Italian American, he has often dwelled in particular on the plight of immigrant subcultures as they try to fit into the mainstream of American society, culminating in his dark tribute to the immigrant experience in Gangs of New York (2002). (Mark Conrad)

82) Gangs are often viewed as the violent refuge of thugs fighting to control street turf, battling to uphold masculine codes of honor. Scorsese’s film, however, provokes viewers to consider gangs in a more sociological context. (Bryan Rommel-Ruiz)

83) You know, the movie is not a history book; it's mostly a personal story. (Kevin Baker)

84) Amsterdam is lying next to the woman who almost became mother to Bill’s son, the scar from her operation visible on her naked body next to him, as Bill pronounces him the son he never had. (Maximillian Le Cain)

85) As Vic Armstrong, director of the action unit and veteran Bond fight arranger, describes it: "Charles Dickens in New York with a Mad Max slant." (Ian Christie)

86) The first thing one notices about the movie is that it is a visual wonder, a cinematic thunderbolt able to propel viewers back in time. (Vincent DiGirolamo)

87) New York, New York, says the song, is a wonderful town. The Manhattan of the musicals is a brightly lit proscenium just around the corner of our collective imagination. But there's a grimmer, backstage side, of mean streets and dark alleys, from Hell's Kitchen to the infamous Five Points. (Robert McCrum)

88) Scorsese explains these things in a torrent of enthusiasm. I have known him for thirty-five years, and this has never changed: he loves movies to an unreasonable, delirious degree, and he has unalloyed zeal for making them and talking about them. (Roger Ebert)

89) Few artists are as aware as Scorsese of the role of violence not only in creating order and sanctity, but in undermining them through acts of provocation and transgression. (Robert Casillo)

90) A guy trying to make it: that is mainly what the cinema of Martin Scorsese is all about. (Lawrence Friedman)

91) In analyzing the work of a film director the issue of authorship is often inescapable. It becomes pressing when discussing the early work of Martin Scorsese. (Leighton Grist)

92) In this scene, the film provokes us to think beyond the conflict between nativists and ethnic immigrants in the Five Points district: it demands that we think about the broader issue of what it means to be an American. (Bryan Rommel-Ruiz)

93) According to Tesson “Scorsese n’est pas un sentimental. Juste un sauvage et un fou” (“Scorsese is not a sentimentalist. Just a savage and a lunatic.”). What other sort of person could so fully understand and celebrate the unending horror that is history? (Maximillian Le Cain)

94) The gangs backed candidates and helped to rig elections -- which of course doesn't happen in America anymore! (Ian Christie)

95) But here’s the rub: authenticity to a filmmaker is largely getting the look of a movie to correspond to what most people think is the look of the period. It means lifting details from other movies about the period as well as from source material of the period; hence the susceptibility to anachronism and stereotype. (Vincent DiGirolamo)

96) He is not one of those film promoters who sticks to sound bites and is focused on selling his picture. (Roger Ebert)

97) That vision remains, above all, religious. How to live a Christian life in a fallen world is the recurring theme of his major films. (Lawrence Friedman)

98) However, a movie is more than simply a story, wanting us to engage our past and challenge us to think about the meaning of American history. Gangs of New York is such a movie. (Bryan Rommel-Ruiz)

99) Any movie that features a running gag of exploding cigars was probably not intended as social commentary, yet it cannot escape history. (Robert Keser)

100) The intellectual and emotional density of these films assured the safety of his position not only as probably Hollywood’s finest director, but also as one of the greatest at work anywhere. (Maximillian Le Cain)

101) Despite its faults, or rather because of them, Gangs of New York has sharpened my understanding of the nature of social conflict in nineteenth-century America.
(Vincent DiGirolamo)

102) I hope that this picture will show people that the things they've had since they were born, the world around them, did not just fall into place. (Kevin Baker)