MARTIN SCORSESE’S GANGS OF NEW YORK — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

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What else can possibly be said about Martin Scorsese’s towering masterpiece Gangs of New York that hasn’t been said already? Released as America was still healing and reeling from the events of 9/11, this was a forceful, absurdly large production that broke exciting new ground for Scorsese as an epic artist, and it marked the start of a fabulous run of films with Leo DiCaprio. Screw the naysayers or anyone who has a problem with Gangs of New York – the film is Scorsese’s ode to violence and to New York and it’s a staggering achievement from top to bottom. Should it be longer? Maybe. But always remember – Scorsese has said on record that no director’s cut will ever be released because the version that came out in theaters was his “director’s cut,” despite contentious battles with Harvey Scissorhands and the often rumored three plus hour work print cut that made the rounds to select journalists and Scorsese’s close friends. Is it messy in spots? You bet. But I like it messy. I like it chaotic and fucking insane and so filled with gory conflict that you never know where to turn. This is Maximalist Filmmaking from our Resident Master, and holy WOW I had forgotten how opulent and decadent everything was in this mostly unrivaled spectacle. The visceral force of every single scene is crushing, Daniel Day Lewis is on another stratosphere with his performance, and the rush of filmmaking energy that can be felt during those electric opening moments let you know that you’re going to be in for a helluva ride. Leo manned up here – I don’t want to hear it – he wasn’t miscast. He brought it all and left nothing out. The final sequence where he faces off against DDL is fierce and absurdly bloody (a literal river of red at one point) and so awesomely shot, cut, scored, and preformed you can’t help but giggle over all of it. Or maybe that’s just me. Dante Ferretti’s production design truly stands on its head; there’s rarely been a production built from the ground up that felt this real and lived-in and organically alive. The dense, incident packed screenplay from Steven Zaillian, Kenneth Lonnergan, and Jay Cocks is wonderfully dramatic, unexpectedly funny, and stuffed with so much detail both big and small that I’m finding that after at least five or six full viewings there’s stuff still to unlock. The last 30 minutes with the destruction of the Five Points is exhilarating – it’s smashingly violent cinematic spectacle for the ages. The scene with DDL draped in the American flag and telling Leo what life is all about – it’s the stuff of movie legend. The ballsy final shot of the NYC skyline with the Twin Towers standing triumphantly – that was Scorsese’s big “fuck you” to the scum that destroyed those monuments and it feels cut from the same artistic cloth as the closing moments of Steven Spielberg’s Munich. Everything about this movie just screams “I’m Better Than You” and I utterly love it. The cast is extraordinary, with Jim Broadbent owning every single scene he appears in as Boss Tweed, Liam Neeson having his bad-ass cameo, Henry Thomas as a sniveling little traitor, Brendan Gleeson as a man who at times can be a “touch indelicate,” and John C. Reilly as a morally corrupted police officer. Only Cameron Diaz feels out of place, though not as much as I’d previously remembered her being. Her Irish accent was bad, but as usual, she gave it her all, didn’t wimp out in any way, and brought a fierce sexuality that would remain mostly dormant until The Counselor. I’m a Diaz apologist as I’ve long been smitten, but I’ll agree that she’s the weak link in the cast overall. But it’s hardly anything that could sink the film, and it’s not like everyone wasn’t acted off the screen by Day Lewis either…he was the central force of the movie, the black heart and vile soul, and it’s a magnetic work of intensely modulated acting that relies on everything that an actor has at his or her disposal: Voice, eyes, body language, and the ability to convey emotion both through talking and through silence. Filmmaking rarely is this bold and exuberant when $100 million is at stake and it easily rests as one of Scorsese’s finest, most ambitious accomplishments. “That my friends, is the minority vote!”

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