January 13, 2003
Mr. Scorsese's New York

Well I saw Gangs of New York this weekend and I was highly disappointed. I wanted to like this movie, I went in hoping it would stand up to the hype and prove it's mettle. Maybe it was the build up. The critics have been claiming how great it is, it was billed as an epic, a type of movie I usually enjoy because of all the drama and pull of heartstrings, and even Michele raved about it, and yet it fell flat. Maybe it was just too big a task, maybe the subject was too gritty or "real", or maybe the story just sucked, but whatever it was the movie caused no emotion except indifference. I cared nothing about any of the characters or their predicament. I have in fact felt more concern for characters in much a stupider movie (i.e. On the Line)

Now some of you may be going, "but it's Scorsese, he's great, he's grand and he loves New York. He's made us love gangsters, how can you not feel for his new creations?" Well the truth is I love his movies as much as the next person. Goodfellas is a classic and even though I can't watch half of it becuase of all the violence I still enjoy it, I just try and forget the violence by covering my eyes. But while in Goodfellas I felt invested in the fate of Ray Liotta's character I couldn't have given a damn about Leonardo DiCaprio's character, Amsterdam. Leonardo, who I feel is one of the better actors of his generation, didn't do well in this role. I never felt any sympathy for him, nor did I ever feel like he ever had ANY feelings of revenge, to me it looked as if he was just going through the motions and would never have even gotten around to it if he hadn't been made to feel guilty about saving his father's killer. The boy who played young Amsterdam made me feel more in the 10 minutes he was in the film than DiCaprio did for the next two and a half hours.

As for Daniel Day-Lewis the truth is I love this man. I have loved him since his role in the Last of the Mohicans. In every role I have every seen him in he is different and always amazing. He was no less brilliant here than he is in any other role and yet I still did not have much feeling for his character. Bill the Butcher was deftly portrayed and yet I still couldn't even muster up even a little bit of dislike or contempt for him.

I think that my main problem with the movie was its main story. It felt forced and predictable. It was one predicable death, betrayal, and plot twist after another. It's been said to have "sweep and vision" by the critics. Gangs of New York neither swept me away nor made me feel as I was being shown anything of importance that could not have been revealed better by someone who is an authority on the time period. I say leave the sweep and vision description to a movie who deserves it, like Lawrence of Arabia.

There were some things I enjoyed about the movie. The sets were incredible, but while they were wonderfully done and great to look at to me it felt as if it was a wonderful stage for display and not a living inhabited place. It felt as if everyone was just visting for a while. The most interesting thing to me in the film was the depictions of the people who inhabited the Five Points and of the poor in general in New York at the time. I did feel as if I was seeing what types of conditions the poor were living at the time and how awful it was, and yet I felt as if the movie's plot rotated around merely depicting the draft riots. The story worked towards that end, the riots being the culmunating background event to the story. It was if Scorsese wanted to show the Draft Riots place in History, but instead of focusing on it he merely used it as a plot devise and the end result made it feel as if it was stuck in there as an afterthought to make the movie historically viable. To me the movie would have been better served if they had actually focused on the riots for the whole movie, as in the couple weeks before, and the actual riots following certain people involved in them, and the recovery afterwards. The stories of families and individuals actually effected by the riots would have made for a much more riviting tale. As it was depicted in the film it was like yea here are the riots, they happened. Weren't they horrible and violent. Gangs of New York gave me an understanding as to why the masses rose up and rioted, but I had no sympathy for them or for thsoe being attacked by them.

So basically I did not get any sense of what the time period was like. I got a flash here and there, as when the film wonderfully showed newly arrived immigrants coming off the boats, becoming citizens, joining the army and in turn getting on another boat to go join the war while coffins were being unloaded, but on the whole it was a story that to just happened to be chosen in that time period so that Scorsese could film the violence he revels in.

I could probably say more, but I won't as I think I've ranted enough.

Posted by nuala at January 13, 2003 12:34 PM