Gangs of New York (2002) Review

Recently I was asked to take part in a review of Scorsese’s films by Andy at Rorschach Reviews , there was a list and we had to pick a film we hadn’t seen so I picked Gangs of New York. Got a copy and 10 minutes into the film defuq is happening!? I had no idea what this film was about at all but I do now and like it. The story of this film is madness pure and simple. The characters are fantastic in this film, crazy and totally unpredictable which what I like in a really entertaining film. The visuals in this film are really great, I know it had a pretty big budget and it shows in every detail. This film is historical fiction very much like Django Unchained it is based around truths in the past but has its own story and characters.

“Mulberry Street… and Worth… Cross and Orange… and Little Water. Each of the Five Points is a finger. When I close my hand it becomes a fist. And, if I wish, I can turn it against you.”


The violent rise of gangland power in New York City at a time of massive political corruption and the city’s evolution into a cultural melting pot set the stage for this lavish historical epic, which director Martin Scorsese finally brought to the screen almost 30 years after he first began to plan the project. In 1846, as waves of Irish immigrants poured into the New York neighborhood of Five Points, a number of citizens of British and Dutch heritage who were born in the United States began making an open display of their resentment toward the new arrivals. William Cutting (Daniel Day-Lewis), better known as “Bill the Butcher” for his deadly skill with a knife, bands his fellow “Native Americans” into a gang to take on the Irish immigrants; the immigrants in turn form a gang of their own, “The Dead Rabbits,” organized by Priest Vallon (Liam Neeson). After an especially bloody clash between the Natives and the Rabbits leaves Vallon dead, his son goes missing; the boy ends up in a brutal reform school before returning to the Five Points in 1862 as Amsterdam (Leonardo DiCaprio). Now a strapping adult who has learned how to fight, Amsterdam has come to seek vengeance against Bill the Butcher, whose underworld control of the Five Points through violence and intimidation dovetails with the open corruption of New York politician “Boss” Tweed (Jim Broadbent). Amsterdam gradually penetrates Bill the Butcher’s inner circle, and he soon becomes his trusted assistant.

Tim’s Film Reviews Recommended

Story: 90% Acting: 90% Characters: 90% Dialogue: 95%

Historical Fiction: 85% Style/Sound: 95% Visuals: 100%

Total: 92%


The story of this film is madness pure and simple. It starts off with no context what so ever in a conflict that looks insane without any prior knowledge, actually it’s still crazy. The fighting is all around race and territory and religion and revenge, you know the normal stuff we fight about but in a really small and cramped area of New York. I think this is the best thing Scorsese did in this film, examining the absurdity of most conflicts especially revenge as it will only give a person a hollow victory if that. There’s a great shot in the first fight were we see the fighting from the kids point of view and it just looks like a hoard of people fighting in grey clothes over the white snow, there’s no identifying one person from another and child’s view it seemed even more insane. Throughout the film the American civil war is mentioned and comparisons are drawn as this tiny piece of the country is in its own conflict.


The characters are fantastic in this film, crazy and totally unpredictable which what I like in a really entertaining film. You can never get bored watching a film with characters who you just can’t predict. We’ll start from the top and talk about Daniel Day-Lewis who plays the most entertaining character in this entire film. He’s violent, racist and bat shit crazy! Cut out his own eye and replaced it with a glass eye with an eagle on it. My favourite scene of his would have to be at the celebration of his victory when he finds out who Amsterdam really is and you get to see him from toying cruelty to crazy violence as he attacks Amsterdam, it’s a great scene where you get to see Daniel Day-Lewis go all out and its scene you just can’t look away from. Leonardo DiCaprio whilst not creating my favourite character of the film he still did well and on his game. Brendan Gleeson was great to watch, Liam Neeson was short and sweet as always, and Scorsese know how to make everyone work together for an entertaining time regardless of their individual talents.


The visuals in this film are really great, I know it had a pretty big budget and it shows in every detail and of the vast scale of the film. Right from the get go you get a giant fight with about hundred men with basic weapons and it all looks real with giant sets and large acting casts. The costumes and buildings look great and considering it cover pretty much everything; we get the rich, the poor, the middle class, the different gangs and the military. The whole lot is very impressive considering this is not Scorsese’s forte and so he created a world which looked to match the time.


This film is historical fiction very much like Django Unchained it is based around truths in the past but has its own story and characters. I love historical fiction especially if it’s to highlight something happening in that time zone; like in this it’s the American civil war and mass immigration from Ireland. The style of the film is so brash and unforgiving that it’s hard not to get suckered into this strange world and its customs. I think you can love this film as long as you can watch Daniel Day-Lewis fight with Liam Neeson one with a meat cleaver and one with an iron cross and go this is crazy but I like it!

Must Watch Trailer:

The best reviews I found would be these “It’s never less than compelling, driven by an overwhelming, larger than life performance from Day-Lewis and by Scorsese’s grandiose historical imagination” Time Out. “The whole may not add up to the sum of its parts, but it’s difficult to dismiss the brilliance of those parts” Michael Dequina. “The impact is all in the broad strokes of Scorsese’s design: the corresponding coming-of-age stories of three confused and violent adolescents: Amsterdam Vallon, New York City, and America” Peter Canavese. “Day-Lewis’s sneering, roaring, monstrous performance as the Butcher will remind you of the seemingly superhuman work Robert DeNiro performed in his prime” Jeffrey Overstreet. “It will be a film that, in decades hence, will only grow in stature and importance” Dan Jardine.

My favourite scene would have to be the annual celebration of the butcher’s victory in that opera place. It’s a great scene were we get to see Daniel Day-Lewis play with knifes and people because he found out who Amsterdam really is and it’s so dramatic to watch because he can flip the switch so quick from in control to full on crazy and it’s great to watch.

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About Tim The Film Guy

Very opinionated about films!

41 responses to “Gangs of New York (2002) Review”

  1. dbmoviesblog says :

    Great write-up. This is one of those films to which I’ll always say ‘I’ll see it tomorrow night, it looks interesting’, but I never do. Now I definitely will, my curiosity has been sparked once again (though I have to admit that Diaz’s name brings this film level down in my eyes).


  2. Lights Camera Reaction says :

    Don’t judge me….but I kinda liked Diaz in it hahaha. I love this film. DDL has given some extraordinary performances, but I have to say my favourite performance by him has to be Bill the Butcher!


  3. sidekickreviews says :

    The part where the butcher describes why he took out his own eye is epic! What a great character and actor.


  4. sanclementejedi says :

    nice selection Tim, I have not seen this since it was originally released. Now you have me all excited to give it a re-watch. I want to get one of those Irish cross spear/clubs that Liam has in his hand.


  5. ruth says :

    This is one of Scorsese’s films I haven’t seen, though my first reaction when I first saw the trailer was, ‘What’s Cameron Diaz doing here??’ I’d give this a rent at some point just for the male cast, I mean DDL, Leo, AND Neeson, wow!


  6. Nostra says :

    Day-Lewis is reason enough to watch this movie, his character is so badass. It’s been way too long since I last saw it.


  7. Victor De Leon says :

    Nice review, Tim. Unfortunately, this is one Scorcese film that I have only seen once. I’ll have to re-visit it soon. I do own a copy. Thanks.


  8. Fogs' Movie Reviews says :

    Great flick to choose Tim. One of Scorsese’s best. I love all the violence, I love the historical recreation, and of course, Daniel Day-Lewis is a force of nature in this movie!! 😀


    • Tim The Film Guy says :

      Well I have heard some mentions of it being good before, had no idea what it was about so I decided to pick and I was glad I did 😀

      A force of nature is a great way to describe Daniel Day-Lewis!


  9. theipc says :

    Excellent work, sir!


  10. Brian @ Hard Ticket to Home Video says :

    I’ve never understood why this film is kind of dismissed. It’s not perfect but there are some really great scenes and Bill the Butcher is a classic character. Maybe it’s Cameron Diaz?


    • Tim The Film Guy says :

      Yeah I know its been a little mixed when I looked around after watching it, weird. Bill the Butcher was amazing! And I just covered part of the screen with my hand when she came on 😀


  11. Jack Flacco says :

    I’ve had to see this movie a few times before I actually appreciated it. My first time was not so enthralling and I didn’t watch it again until years later. I now love it! The story is amazing, the characters are great and Leo has proven his acting chops with this one.


  12. The Celtic Predator says :

    I’m glad you did this one; I’ve had GONY on my to-watch list for quite some time, having been a long-time Scorsese fan and heard nothing but good things about this film. I’m interested to see how it compares to his other famous pictures that I’ve watched, including ‘Taxi Driver,’ ‘Raging Bull,’ Goodfellas,’ ‘Casino,’ and ‘The Departed,’ of which I thought TD was by far the best.

    On a side note, I always thought it was so tragic and annoying how Scorsese never won Best Director until ‘The Departed,’ which I think is one of his least impressive films. After being nominated 6 times previously, the Academy had to wait till 2006 to butt out ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ to celebrate the Gangster God?

    Sheesh, the Academy…anyway, great review, but can I suggest some constructive criticism, though? I’ve noticed in some of your reviews that you don’t use commas very often, and I think it would help the flow of your writing if you made more liberal use of them. Sorry to nitpick! Let me know if you see something odd with my reviews if you come across it. 🙂


    • Tim The Film Guy says :

      Its a really fun film and I hope you see it soon 😀

      The Academy is stupid!

      You critical bastard! Haha nah I know I am terrible with grammar, spell checker can only do so much 😀


  13. Issy R. says :

    This is one of my favorite movies. DiCaprio and Day-Lewis were great. Great review.


  14. Morgan R. Lewis says :

    Watched this for the first time last year. I thought it was fantastic, and I’m glad to see it gets high marks from you as well. I really like the way that it maintains its focus on Bill and Amsterdam but still gives the impression that this is really a minor, local thing in the midst of much larger turmoil.


  15. CMrok93 says :

    A tad long and disjointed for my taste, but it still works because of the capable leads and Marty’s love for drawing style in whatever project he takes. Nice review Tim.


  16. ckckred says :

    Nice review. Even though Scorsese’s one of my favorite directors, I’ve never really loved this one, though Daniel Day-Lewis’ performance is flawless and I’m still angry he lost the Oscar to Adrien Brody.


  17. keith7198 says :

    Very nice review. I agree with ya! This is a strong picture!


  18. r361n4 says :

    Great review, Tim! Makes me really want to re-visit this one. Looking forward to getting this posted, thanks a lot for taking part 🙂


  19. le0pard13 says :

    This still is my favorite Daniel Day-Lewis performance. I know he gets a lot of praise for ‘There Will Be Blood’, but to me that was always a variation of this persona, c/o this Scorsese film. I can easily rematch GoNY while I really don’t have a inkling to do the same with TWBB. Of course, that could be just me ;-). Fine look at this, Tim.


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