Dark Licht

Gangs of New York USA/IT/GER/NL 2002 (168′)- Dir.: Martin Scorsese. With Leonardo Dicaprio, Daniel Day-Lewis, Cameron Diaz. My rating: 4 stars | Official site | dvd

Gangs of New York is probably the most talked about film of the last year. Producer Weinstein and director Scorcese had some troubles together. Miramax took a huge risk by financing this film, and the box-office in the USA is rather disappointing so far [72 million US$, but could earn much more the coming weeks thanks to its 10 Oscar nominations]. It is likely that the film will get a better reception in Europe; in France and the UK together it grossed almost 28 million US$ sofar [update: Feb. 17, 2003].

Despite all the gossip ‘Gangs’ has become a Great Movie. It is set during the great gang wars that dominated New York City in around the 1850’s. The opening scene is probably on of the bloodiest in fim history and visually very impressive. The story focuses on Amsterdam Vallon (curious name by the way) who seeks revenge for the murder on his father, an Irish priest. Sixteen years later the killer, Bill the Butcher (Daniel Day-Lewis), hires Amsterdam as a sort of assistant. He doesn’t recognise him as the son of his victim, but Amsterdam has only one goal: to kill Bill. But Bill treats Amsterdam like his son, which serioulsy compromises Amsterdam’s mission.

Some dialogues are clear remarks to today’s political situation in the USA, like the remark “Ballots don’t make up the election”. The Five Points district is extensively described in Gotham: A History of New York City, a fascinating book about the history of New Amsterdam, that I bought on one of my visits to the Big Apple. Gangs of New York is not one of Scorsese’s best films, but it sure is his most ambitious one.

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