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Old 16th Sep 2003, 8:46   #1
Colyngbourne
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Default Gangs of New York

Gangs of New York

Watched this last night. It was rather unexpected how ‘un-epic’ it turned out to be. I had heard of the ten or so years it took Scorsese to make this film and the great storyline, vision of NY in the mid C19th etc but it just didn’t come through in the end for me. It felt a very muddled film, drawing allusions from lots of others. For a start I expected the district of Five Points (over which the gangs fight) to be rather large and sprawling but it appeared to be a larger version of Albert Square where five streets met in a large plaza, lamp-posts and water-troughs etc. All that was missing was Arthur’s bench. (Or again at the end, a resemblance to ye olde Mexican village with whitewashed church where the gangsters hide out…). If not that, it bore a strong resemblance to ‘Who Will Buy?’ from Oliver, with hundreds of extras meandering about with baskets (a bloody irritating Irish lady busking all the ‘gen-you-whine’ Irish immigrant songs Scorsese had evidently researched) – where were all these people going all the time, to and fro?
A little snifter of Liam Neeson at the start is good for anyone’s soul :D , but then we were plunged into Leo’s soulful voice-over and this quasi-Messianic role (‘I will lead my people to freedom’) which kept coming in and out of focus throughout the film, but which was ignored for the bulk. Cameron Diaz I struggle with at the best of times and this was no exception, but Daniel Day-Lewis was extraordinary and without him the film would have fallen apart. He did play the part outrageously but it works – a combination of Captain Hook (as in Spielberg’s version he was trying to bring up Leo as his ‘own boy’/fighting the Pan figure at the end) and the Godfather (pig’s head on a platter). I was just sorry we didn’t get any deeper insight into his character.
Towards the end the film improved in some ways but it still felt muddled and confused – at one moment we are encouraged to despise the baying mob defying the Civil War draft (who are trashing NY and stringing up ‘blacks’ from lamp-posts – no tragic music here), the next moment they are faced with a mowing-down by the armed police and we get the slo-mo of tragic death + haunting Irish tune + weeping women. The volte-face is a little stomach-turning and plainly leaves you with the idea that everyone was in the wrong back then (though the good ol’ Irish are less in the wrong than the others, somehow).
I still felt at the end this was a good film, but that Day-Lewis carried it. Without him, it would’ve been pants. The themes and ideas were good enough and the filming reasonable, though with a tendency to corny characterisation and dialogue. What just surprises me is that Scorsese didn’t give us the whammy we’d been waiting for.
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Last edited by Colyngbourne; 29th Jan 2009 at 15:14. Reason: Ye gods! I spelled volte-face wrongly over five years ago. The horror!
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Old 29th Jan 2009, 9:38   #2
loupgarous
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Default Re: Gangs of New York

This is the worst film adaptation of a non-fiction book I have ever seen. (I reserve the title of worst film adaptation of all time for Verhoeven's butchery of Robert A. Heinlein's Starship Troopers.)

Herbert Asbury's book The Gangs of New York http://www.amazon.com/Gangs-New-York.../dp/1560252758 is probably one of the best works of American history ever written.

The movie, however, romanticizes just about every villain in the history of New York, including the "Dead Rabbits," which Asbury described aptly in the book as one of the seamiest and more pathetic gangs in the history of New York, and the draft rioters, who collectively may have justified the pathetic film career of Spike Lee. As history it is a hopeless whitewash of the open sewer that was the Five Points.

The only thing good I have to say about this movie is that Leonardo di Caprio may well have been an excellent cast as a founding Dead Rabbit.
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Old 29th Jan 2009, 13:41   #3
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Default Re: Gangs of New York

Quote:
Originally Posted by loupgarous View Post
the draft rioters, who collectively may have justified the pathetic film career of Spike Lee.
You may have to expand on this a bit... How do Lee's joints fit in here?
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Old 29th Jan 2009, 14:07   #4
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Default Re: Gangs of New York

Verhoeven's butchery of Robert A. Heinlein's Starship Troopers.

Actualy i prefered the movie.I found it very funny,A B-movie pastiche of the military spirit of the novel.
I don't think it was intented to be a serious adaptation,or was it?
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Old 29th Jan 2009, 14:20   #5
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Default Re: Gangs of New York

Nope, agreed; allegedly Verhoeven didn't even finish the book. I think it's not so much an adaptation as a gleeful piss-take. And I loved that simulated media stuff.
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Old 29th Jan 2009, 14:44   #6
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Default Re: Gangs of New York

I pretty much hate the film Starship Troopers and I love Gangs of New York. I will find no friends on this thread.
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Old 29th Jan 2009, 14:46   #7
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Default Re: Gangs of New York

No-one said Palimpsester of the Year would be easy, bill.
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Old 29th Jan 2009, 14:51   #8
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Default Re: Gangs of New York

Wait,i liked gangs of New york(excepte the flag in the eye thing) so we could be Half-friend?
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Old 29th Jan 2009, 15:05   #9
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Default Re: Gangs of New York

I always wondered what possessed Scorsese to have the film end with Bono singing "These are the hands that built America." Um... did we watch the same movie? The one with criminals killing each other for three hours? The only way that makes sense is if Scorsese is trying to claim that killing and looting is the spirit that built America, which I sort of doubt...
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Old 29th Jan 2009, 15:10   #10
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Default Re: Gangs of New York

Yes, the crown or cup or whatever weighs heavy. But salio, if half-friends is the best I can do, then half-friends it shall be!

I will say that Loupgarous (welcome, by the way) is almost certainly correct that Scorsese white-washes the villainy of the Dead Rabbits, and etc., but he also didn't really focus on that era, and instead focused on the era that came after. And it should also probably be mentioned that many have taken issue with the accuracy of Asbury's book (such as Luc Sante).
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