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Martin Scorsese
Leonardo DiCaprio, Daniel Day-Lewis, Cameron Diaz
Writing Credits:
Jay Cocks, Steven Zallian, Kenneth Lonergan Synopsis:
In 1863, Amsterdam Vallon returns to the Five Points area of New York City seeking revenge against Bill the Butcher, his father's killer.
Box Office:
$100 million.
Opening Weekend:
$9,496,870 on 1504 screens.
Domestic Gross:
Rated R.

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Spanish Dolby 2.0
Supplement Subtitles:

Runtime: 167 min.
Price: $14.98
Release Date: 2/2/2010

• Audio Commentary with Director Martin Scorsese
• “History of the Five Points” Featurette
• “Costume Design” Featurette
• “Set Design” Featurette
• “Exploring the Sets” Featurette
• “Uncovering the Real Gangs of New York” Featurette
• Music Video
• Trailers & Previews


-LG OLED65C6P 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV
-Marantz SR7010 9.2 Channel Full 4K Ultra HD AV Surround Receiver
-Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


Gangs of New York [Blu-Ray] (2002)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 22, 2020)

In 2002, it appeared Martin Scorsese would finally claim a long-awaited Oscar for Gangs of New York. However, he would need to wait until 2006’s The Departed brought home the gold, as Chicago became 2002’s Academy Awards champion.

I suppose I can find many reasons why Gangs failed to receive any trophies. At the heart, the main cause may be simple: it’s not that great a movie. While ambitious and sporadically successful, no one will mistake Gangs as competition for Scorsese’s better flicks.

Gangs opens with a prologue set in 1846. We meet “Priest” Vallon (Liam Neeson) and his young son Amsterdam (Cian McCormack). “Priest” leads a contingent of Irish immigrants into a bloody battle with Bill “The Butcher” Cutting and his native-born Americans.

This fight intends to determine who will run the Five Points section of New York. After a savage brawl, Bill prevails and kills “Priest”. This segment ends as we see Amsterdam taken away into official custody.

The movie then flash-forwards to 1862, where we see an adult Amsterdam (Leonardo DiCaprio) as he emerges from a long stay in a house of reform. Unfortunately, this didn’t reform him at all, so he returns to the Five Points and a life of crime.

Amsterdam quickly meets up with an old childhood friend named Johnny (Henry Thomas). Johnny introduces Amsterdam to other young ne’er-do-wells, and the latter joins up with their gang.

Amsterdam also literally runs into a lovely pickpocket named Jenny (Cameron Diaz). Though the pair initially display animosity toward each other, it seems inevitable they will eventually develop romantically.

In the meantime, we see inside Bill’s organization and discover his connection to the sleazy politician William “Boss” Tweed (Jim Broadbent). The latter uses Bill and his men as their “enforcers”. Eventually Amsterdam and his pals will come into the employ of Bill, and those two men will develop a close relationship, though Bill doesn’t know the real identity of his young protégé.

Since he continues to bear a grudge related to the death of his father, this causes conflicts inside Amsterdam as the film leads inexorably toward a confrontation.

“Inevitable” and “inexorable” aren’t words I usually use in regard to really good movies, and they’re at the heart of this one’s flaws. If Gangs works, it does so totally due to the will power of its director.

It seems like a shame that Scorsese failed to win the Oscar not because Gangs was 2002’s best film, but because few – if any – other flicks owe their success so totally to the work of their directors. Of the other nominees, it’s hard to think of one that likely would have fallen totally flat had someone else made it.

I think that Gangs lands in that category. Without Scorsese’s strong personality and visual style, this film would have become a total mess.

As it stands, the flick finds it difficult to rise above its bland origins. The plot provides little more than a coming of age revenge drama.

As I noted, a lot about Gangs seems predictable and inevitable. I won’t claim that no surprises appear during Gangs, but they’re few and far between.

In addition, the script seems messy as plot threads come and go somewhat at random. Perhaps in an attempt to hold it all together, Scorsese utilizes narration from Amsterdam, but this actively harms the piece, for the poorly written dialogue comes across as cheesy and unnecessary.

The film works best during its first two acts, but it more fully falls apart during the final third. Scorsese keeps it going until then mainly via sheer will power, but as the movie loses sight of personal relationships and goes for a historical viewpoint, it becomes significantly less involving.

While the characters never seem terribly intriguing, they remain at the heart of the flick, and it can’t quite survive a diminution of their status. The actors sure make a go of it, though.

DiCaprio does nicely as Amsterdam. As written, the role lacks much depth, but DiCaprio brings a good sense of heart to the part, and he makes it a more forceful, beefy role than one would expect from the boyish and somewhat physically slight actor.

Day-Lewis earned massive plaudits for his work as Bill, and he indeed brings a strong personality to the part. However, I think he plays the role to its excessive ends.

He chews the scenery with gusto and hams it up relentlessly as Bill. This generally works for the role, but I occasionally thought that he needed to back off somewhat, as Bill sometimes comes across like a cartoon.

Despite the film’s decline toward the end, Scorsese’s visual flair helps make it work for a while, and the opening battle between the various gangs seems nearly stunning. Daringly set to Peter Gabriel’s “Signal to Noise”, the sequence presents a brutal event in a terrific way. While many more set pieces will appear before the film ends, none of them live up to the strength and audacity of this opening.

Ultimately, Gangs of New York feels like one massive missed opportunity. In no way would I classify it as a bad film or a failure. Many parts of it work well, and it really offers some excellent moments.

However, it falters as it progresses, and it never capitalizes on its successes. Occasionally exciting but often messy, Gangs falls short of the mark.

The Disc Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B/ Bonus B+

Gangs of New York appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Though not flawless, this became a satisfying presentation.

Sharpness looked good overall. Some stylized softness appeared at times, but most of the image displayed nice delineation and accuracy.

I saw no signs of jagged edges or shimmering. In addition, print flaws remained absent, and I witnessed no edge haloes.

In terms of palette, Gangs opted for a mix of teal and orange/amber. These worked fine for the story and showed nice clarity and delineation.

Black levels also came across as dense and tight, while shadows were clean and accurately delineated. This wasn’t quite an “A”-level image, but it satisfied.

As a character-driven drama, the film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundfield often remained pretty subdued, and much of the time the track simply bolstered events with general atmosphere. Music presented good imaging, and the track created a nice feeling of environment.

When pushed, however, it became more involving, and the best parts popped up during the film’s climactic riot sequence, especially when the military became involved.

In addition to gunfire, the track presented excellent movement of cannon blasts. The surrounds strongly entered the picture here and during other set pieces, and effects such as the soaring cannonballs worked well.

Audio quality worked well, as speech sounded natural and distinct. I noticed no issues related to the lines, and effects also failed to present any concerns.

Those elements appeared accurate and tight, and they also featured pretty solid bass response when appropriate. The cannon blasts provided the film’s sonic highlights, but other parts of the film also woke up my subwoofer in a satisfying way.

The score seemed nicely clear and robust as well. Ultimately, the audio of Gangs of New York was pretty good.

How did the Blu-ray compare to the DVD from 2003? The lossless audio appeared more robust and more accurate, as it lost some of the odd “distant” qualities of the DVD’s material.

In addition, visuals demonstrated an obvious uptick, as the Blu-ray was better defined, cleaner and smoother. This turned into a substantial upgrade over its DVD predecessor.

Note that this disc represents the second Blu-ray iteration of Gangs. This version came out in 2008 whereas this version arrived in 2010.

I never saw the 2008 disc but I know it received brutal criticism for its transfer, as apparently that Blu-ray came plagued with rampant edge haloes, digital noise reduction and other problems. Perversely, the 2008 release earned such awful reviews that I kind of wish I’d seen it!

The Blu-ray reproduces most of the DVD’s extras, and we begin with an audio commentary from director Martin Scorsese. Though it shows no obvious edits, this track also doesn’t sound like a running affair, as it appears to come from an interview.

The track definitely fails to become screen-specific, as I recall no instances during which Scorsese actually remarks directly upon the action. Nonetheless, the director offers a very good chat that relates to the film.

Scorsese mostly covers the history behind the movie as he tells us about the times and facts of the era. In addition, we learn about the film’s long path to the screen, casting, the visual style, music, sets, costumes and other production elements.

Scorsese even relates an interesting tale about how he originally wanted the Clash to do the music back when he initiated the project in the Seventies. Despite a few moderate empty spaces, this commentary provides a solid examination of the flick.

After this we find a series of video programs. The nine-minute, seven-second Set Design featurette presents remarks from production designer Dante Ferretti, Scorsese, cinematographer Michael Ballhaus, second unit director Vic Armstrong, and actors Daniel Day-Lewis, Cameron Diaz, Jim Broadbent, Leonardo DiCaprio, Gary Lewis, Liam Neeson, John C. Reilly, and Brendan Gleeson.

A pretty basic program, Ferretti gives us a little decent information about the creation of the film’s sets and its look, but too much of it comes across as fluffy. We hear many comments from the participants about how great the sets were but not much depth.

A companion piece, Exploring the Sets of Gangs of New York lasts 22 minutes, 31 seconds, and we watch Scorsese and Ferretti as they stroll through the sets.

They offer comments about the work, the movie, and the factual basis behind them. We learn lots of nice details about the sets and get a fine look at them in this interesting little program.

The eight-minute, 12-second Costume Design resembles “Set Design” in its construction. Here we find remarks from Scorsese, costume designer Sandy Powell, wardrobe supervisor Paolo Stefano Scalabrino, and actors Liam Neeson, Day-Lewis, and Diaz.

They cover the historical details and liberties as well as other considerations involved with the costumes. “Costume” seems much more compelling than “Set”, as it includes substantially greater levels of actual information and doesn’t just praise the designers’ work.

Next we find a History of the Five Points. This 13-minute, 33-second program features statements from Scorsese, author/historical advisor Luc Sante, and actors DiCaprio, Neeson, and Broadbent.

Sante dominates the piece as he leads us through a quick glimpse at the facts behind the film. Some of this appears elsewhere, but we get some new information, and “History” feels like a tight and useful piece as a whole.

For more material in the same vein, we go to the Five Points Study Guide. The “Luc Sante Introduction” gives us a very good text overview of the historical information.

The “Five Points Vocabulary” provides definitions for terms heard in the movie. Both combined help flesh out their subjects neatly.

The disc also offers a Discovery Channel special called Uncovering the Real Gangs of New York. This 35-minute, 14-second program includes interviews with Kenneth T. Jackson of the New York Historical Society, archaeologist Rebecca Yamin, Ruth Abram of the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, anthropologist Brian Ferguson, authors Luc Sante, Tyler Anbinder and Peter Quinn, actors Daniel Day-Lewis, Cameron Diaz, and Liam Neeson, and director Scorsese.

Though the appearance of the film folk made me worry that “Uncovering” would offer little more than a puffy promotional piece, instead it gives us a nice examination of the facts behind the movie. The participants trace the history of pretty much everything we see in the flick.

There’s information about real-life counterparts to characters as well as notes about the evolution of the Five Points, the various riots and other legal issues, and many other topics.

This program moves briskly as it concisely relates the material. It’s a fine piece that I wish I’d watched before I saw the movie, as knowing these details enhances the film.

Lastly, we get the music video for U2’s “The Hands That Built America”. Not identical to the clip that appears on the band’s The Best Of 1990-2000, this one uses the same footage of the band in the studio, but tints it to offer an old-timey look and intercuts it with movie footage.

The Best Of edition isn’t very good, but this one’s even worse. I adore U2, but this is a cheesy video.

The disc opens with ads for Everybody’s Fine and Surrogates. We also find two trailers for Gangs.

Although Gangs of New York won’t go down as Martin Scorsese’s worst film, it also falls far from the top of his pile. The movie presents a handful of enthralling sequences but suffers from a weak script, a messy third act, and a mix of other problems that undercut its strengths. The Blu-ray brings very good picture and audio along with a nice array of bonus materials. Though not a great Scorsese film, Gangs comes with enough positives to merit a look.

To rate this film, visit the original review of GANGS OF NEW YORK