Sunday, January 21, 2007

Gangs of New York (2002)

A few nights ago, my husband and I watched Gangs of New York (2002). It was not as bad as everyone said it was. We watched it on a cable network that mercifully cut or blurred most of the extreme violence, nudity, and foul language. The score was phenomenal, especially the use of the violin music. The Irish songs in the background amidst the total squalor and corruption of Five Points were very moving. One senses the indomitable spirit of a fighting people. We always forget what the immigrants experienced when they first landed here. I can see why my great-great-great grandfather preferred to settle in Canada where he had to deal with wolves and some prejudice but otherwise he was alone in the wilderness; no nasty street gangs.

I wish I knew more about the Irish experience in New York City. Was someone like "Bill the Butcher" really allowed to go around chopping people up? People have compared Bill the Butcher, masterfully played by Daniel Day Lewis, to Bill Sykes in Dickens' Oliver Twist, but I think it is a weak comparison. Bill Sykes was an ignorant, blundering, repellent, murdering psychopath but Bill the Butcher was a cunning, devious, charming, murdering psychopath. The scene when they were all dancing with the candles was sheer beauty. However, it ruined the romance when the hero and heroine had to immediately have a roll in the hay; it destroyed the ambiance, totally.

All the acting was superb. I usually do not care for Cameron Diaz and some critics thought that she was miscast. I beg to differ; I thought she made a great tavern wench, with that tough, hungry, wounded look. Yet she sparkled with audacity and hope, in spite of her surroundings. The sets were gruesomely realistic; we could almost smell the dung and waste in the streets.

I got some ideas for my Irish novel. Share

8 comments:

alice said...

My son saw the movie, but I didn't for the same reason you thought you would not like it. I love the wording of your review.

elena maria vidal said...

Thank you very much, Alice.

Georgette said...

You're right, the sets were very striking and so realistic.

I saw this movie a while back in several attempts because I kept turning it off because of the gore. You were fortunate to see a cleaned up version of it. In spite of the gore, the story and the history were intriguing, so I did manage to finally see the whole thing. I had no idea life was THAT horribly harsh for the poor immigrants in those days! I also wondered how much of it was made up, if someone like The Butcher could so openly commit his murders?

elena maria vidal said...

I was wondering that, too. I know they were paying off the police, but still....

LyliaM said...

I caught this movie (for the first time) last week as well. I found the violence most unpleasant, but I thought the film was pretty compelling. If nothing else, it inspired me to spend the balance of the following day performing online research about Five Points. The general consensus seems to be that the violence that occurred in "real life" was far below the level shown in the movie. Which isn't to say that life wasn't horribly harsh for the immigrants -- it was. The segment of Ric Burns' documentary series on New York (the one that appeared on PBS) dealing with Five Points was interesting (and terribly sad) and probably gives an accurate notion of what life was actually like.

elena maria vidal said...

Thnaks for that information, lylia, I thought the violence was a bit extreme!!

Vicky said...

Indeed! (I held my hands over my face during those parts -- didn't need to be seeing it, though I still had to hear and be annoyed by Bill sharpening his knives over . . . and over. . . and over . . . )

elena maria vidal said...

I agree, Vicky, it made my skin crawl....