It’s been a couple of years since my last viewing of Martin Scorsese’s historical epic, Gangs of New York. It’s a movie I’ve seen several times since I first saw it in 2002 as my first ‘18’ rated movie at the cinema. It’s a film I’ve always had a lot of affection for. I found it strange then that on this particular viewing, the movie had lost a lot of its charm.
Loosely based on the 1928 book of the same name, Gangs of New York is a dirty and blood-soaked account of the various gangs which vied for control over New York City’s Five Points in the middle of the 19th Century. Focussing specifically on two characters, it takes historical context and real names, mixing them into a world of fact and fiction with some glorious set pieces and cinematic design. Having witnessed his father’s death at the hands of Bill ‘the Butcher’ Cutting (Daniel Day-Lewis) as a young child, Amsterdam Vallon (Leonardo Di Caprio) comes back to the Five Points as an adult to reap revenge. He finds the Points much the same as he left it; a squalid and rat infested mismatch of languages and races, the very thing which Cutting despises about the area in which he is King.