MOVIE REVIEW: THE GANGS OF NEW YORK
So I finally went to see the movie that all of the critics seem to approve of. Most of them say that it's a slam bang epic that is a shoo-in at Oscar time. To be completely honest I was rather bored through it all.
The plot is that the son of a slain gang leader returns after 16 years to get revenge
! Of course the crime lord that murdered the father takes the young lad under his wing as a surrogate son, never realizing that he's nurturing a viper at his breast.
What is it about these crime lords? Why can't they find some other punk kid who they want to adopt?
The film takes great pains to paint the gang members as being viscious types, which is certainly true. The slums are also realistically portrayed as filthy mudholes with the hogs eating the dead bodies that appear every night. If you're interested in the period the film is worth a look just to see the vast gulf that seperated the poor and the wealthy, and how conditions were nightmarish in the extreme if you were at society's lowest rung.
But the film takes great liberties with history. At the time the politics of the city were controlled by Boss Tweed
, who was arguably the most powerful unelected official that this country has ever seen. In the movie he seems to spend most of his time wandering around the worst slum in America, making personal deals with the gangs so they'd get the votes he needed to stay in power. I don't mind a little revision to keep the story moving but this is surreal to the point of idiocy.
The gangs in question have elaborate rituals that they go through before fighting one another. They also have a strange code of honor. I couldn't figure out why anyone bothered since the main villian would routinely ignore the code when it suited him. It struck me as rather a waste of time to even go through all that.
Another absurdity. Leonardo di Caprio
as a tough, hard fighting he-man. (chuckle chuckle snort
The story about the gangs took place just as the New York draft riots
were getting started. The worst riots in the country in protest of America's first military draft were very destructive but there wasn't much of a body count. The best estimates place the number of dead at 119. Some historians claim that many more corpses were carried off by their families and given secret burials. Okay, ten times that number? Pretty high, but within the realm of possibility. 20 times that number? No, you couldn't hide that many dead people.
In the film thousands of people are shot down by federal troops called out to quell the violence. Naval battleships even shell the city from the harbor! I realize that Hollywood has to play around with the details to make a more interesting story, but come on!
I'd say go see it for the sets and costumes and the way that slum life is portrayed. If you're not interested in any of that then I'd suggest you go see The Two Towers