Gangs of New York (2002) – 4/5

Decent, if not a bit silly and weirdly shot film by Martin Scorsese, with a good, if not muddled and needlessly complex story and a few strong performances here and there, particularly from Daniel Day-Lewis who is hilariously wacky as the antagonist villain type. He’s a living cartoon, crazy facial hair and bizarre clothing and all. The whole movie feels like a cartoon at times, come to think of it.

The movie is shot in a really bizarre, almost goofy style that’s a mix of stage play and period drama. It doesn’t quite work, but it’s not a complete disaster either. It’s just weird, especially given the seriousness of the story. The acting is strangely in the same vein, with some actors embracing the goofiness of the thing, like Day-Lewis and John C. Reilly, and others taking things way too seriously and coming off stiff as a result, like Leonardo DiCaprio and Cameron Diaz. Diaz especially seems miscast here; she doesn’t seem to even be trying at times. Come on, Cameron, you’re in a Scorsese film! Try to make the most of it. It’s going to be the highlight of your career.

Despite its flaws, the film is never dull, nor does it feel all that long, even at almost 3 hours. Maybe at the end a little when things start to slow down, but overall, no, it’s pretty interesting throughout. And some scenes are extremely well written. I loved a few of Day-Lewis’ exchanges, namely his **SPOILERS** whole monologue with DiCaprio about killing his father, and his crying over the dead rabbit, and the exchange he has with the mayor at the end where he tells him he’s lukewarm and is going to spew him from his mouth. Haha! **END SPOILERS** Day-Lewis just has this unique way of delivering lines, even though he can be over theatrical at times. Whatever, he’s fun to watch. Usually.

Overall, I liked the film, though it’s silly at times and occasionally tries to cram too many stories in at once, especially by the end with the whole somewhat unrelated **SPOILERS** city-wide riot that just so happens to break out the same day that DiCaprio and Day-Lewis decide they’re going to have this big gang fight in the middle of the square. **END SPOILERS** Uh huh. And the Irish discrimination subplot thing fits at the beginning as it helps to introduce us to these characters and the city and how it all relates to everything, but starts to feel increasingly forced after the whole “revenge” element takes front and center, which is pretty early in the plot. Eh.

So, yeah, a good movie, nothing great; certainly not one of Scorsese’s better films, but the story was interesting for the most part and there were a few great scenes here and there. Yeah, it’s unnecessarily goofy at times, and the plot is all over the place by the end, but it’s still worth a watch.

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