In , a long-running Catholic—Protestant feud erupts into violence, just as an Irish immigrant group is protesting the low wages caused by an influx of freed slaves as well as the threat of conscription. Scorsese spent 20 years developing the project until in Harvey Weinstein and his production company Miramax Films acquired it. It was nominated for ten Oscars at the 75th Academy Awards. In the slum neighborhood of Five Points, Manhattan , in , two gangs have engaged in a final battle or "challenge" in Paradise Square over "who holds sway over the Five Points"; these two factions participating in this event are the Nativist Protestants led by William "Bill the Butcher" Cutting, and a group of Irish Catholic immigrants, the " Dead Rabbits ", led by "Priest" Vallon.
At the end of this battle, Bill kills Vallon and declares the Dead Rabbits outlawed. Having witnessed this, Vallon's young son hides the knife that killed his father and is taken to an orphanage on Blackwell's Island. Sixteen years later, in , Vallon's son, using the alias of Amsterdam, returns to the Five Points seeking revenge and retrieves the knife.
An old acquaintance, Johnny Sirocco, familiarizes him with the local clans of gangs and thieves, all of whom pay tribute to Bill, who controls the neighborhood. Amsterdam is finally introduced to Bill, but keeps his past a secret, seeking to be recruited.
He learns that many of his father's former loyalists are now in Bill's employ. Each year, Bill celebrates the anniversary of his victory over the Dead Rabbits; Amsterdam plans to murder him secretly during this celebration. Amsterdam becomes attracted to pickpocket and grifter Jenny Everdeane, with whom Johnny is infatuated. Amsterdam gains Bill's confidence and Bill becomes his mentor, involving him in the dealings of corrupt Tammany Hall politician William M. Amsterdam saves Bill from an assassination attempt, and is tormented by the thought that he may have done so out of honest devotion.
On the evening of the anniversary, Johnny, in a fit of jealousy over Jenny's affections for Amsterdam, reveals Amsterdam's true identity and intentions to Bill. Bill baits Amsterdam with a knife throwing act involving Jenny. As Bill toasts Priest Vallon, Amsterdam throws his knife, but Bill deflects it and wounds Amsterdam with a counter throw.
Bill then beats him and burns his cheek with a hot blade. Going into hiding, Jenny nurses Amsterdam back to health and implores him to escape with her to San Francisco. Amsterdam, however, returns to the Five Points seeking vengeance, and announces his return by hanging a dead rabbit in Paradise Square. Bill sends corrupt policeman Mulraney to investigate, but Amsterdam kills him and hangs his body in the square. In retaliation, Bill has Johnny beaten and run through with a pike, leaving it to Amsterdam to end his suffering.
The incident garners newspaper coverage, and Amsterdam presents Tweed with a plan to defeat Bill's influence: Tweed will back the candidacy of Monk McGinn for sheriff and Amsterdam will secure the Irish vote for Tammany. Monk wins in a landslide the election had been rigged by the Dead Rabbits , and a humiliated Bill murders him.
McGinn's death prompts an angry Amsterdam to challenge Bill to a gang battle in Paradise Square for order, which Bill accepts. Citywide draft riots break out just as the gangs are preparing to fight, and Union Army soldiers are deployed to control the rioters. As the rival gangs face off, cannon fire from naval ships is fired directly into Paradise Square, interrupting their battle shortly before it begins.
Between the cannons, soldiers, and rioters, many of the gang members are killed. Bill and Amsterdam face off against one another until Bill gets wounded by a piece of shrapnel. Amsterdam then uses his father's knife to stab Bill, killing him and ending his reign at last.
Before they leave, Amsterdam buries Bill in a cemetery in Brooklyn next to his father. As Amsterdam and Jenny leave the cemetery, the final scene of the film shows the skyline changing in a time-lapse over the next hundred and forty years as modern Manhattan is built, from the Brooklyn Bridge to the World Trade Center , and the cemetery becomes overgrown and forgotten.
At the time, he had noticed there were parts of his neighborhood that were much older than the rest, including tombstones from the s in Old St. Patrick's Cathedral , cobblestone streets and small basements located under more recent large buildings; this sparked Scorsese's curiosity about the history of the area: "I gradually realized that the Italian-Americans weren't the first ones there, that other people had been there before us.
As I began to understand this, it fascinated me. I kept wondering, how did New York look? What were the people like?
How did they walk, eat, work, dress? In , Scorsese came across Herbert Asbury 's The Gangs of New York: An Informal History of the Underworld about the city's nineteenth-century criminal underworld and found it to be a revelation. In the portraits of the city's criminals, Scorsese saw the potential for an American epic about the battle for the modern American democracy.
In , he acquired screen rights to Asbury's book; however, it took twenty years to get the production moving forward. Difficulties arose with reproducing the monumental city scape of nineteenth century New York with the style and detail Scorsese wanted; almost nothing in New York City looked as it did in that time, and filming elsewhere was not an option.
Eventually, in , Scorsese was able to find a partnership with Harvey Weinstein , noted producer and co-chairman of Miramax Films. Production designer Dante Ferretti recreated over a mile of mid-nineteenth century New York buildings, consisting of a five-block area of Lower Manhattan , including the Five Points slum, a section of the East River waterfront including two full-sized sailing ships, a thirty-building stretch of lower Broadway , a patrician mansion, and replicas of Tammany Hall, a church, a saloon, a Chinese theater, and a gambling casino.
Particular attention was also paid to the speech of characters, as loyalties were often revealed by their accents. The film's voice coach, Tim Monich, resisted using a generic Irish brogue and instead focused on distinctive dialects of Ireland and Great Britain. As DiCaprio's character was born in Ireland but raised in the United States, his accent was designed to be a blend of accents typical of the half-Americanized.
To develop the unique, lost accents of the Yankee "Nativists" such as Daniel Day-Lewis's character, Monich studied old poems, ballads, newspaper articles which sometimes imitated spoken dialect as a form of humor and the Rogue's Lexicon , a book of underworld idioms compiled by New York's police commissioner, so that his men would be able to tell what criminals were talking about.
An important piece was an wax cylinder recording of Walt Whitman reciting four lines of a poem in which he pronounced the word "Earth" as "Uth", and the "a" of "an" nasal and flat, like "ayan". Monich concluded that native nineteenth-century New Yorkers probably sounded something like the proverbial Brooklyn cabbie of the midth century. Due to the strong personalities and clashing visions of director and producer, [ clarification needed ] the three year production became a story in and of itself.
During the delays, noted actors such as Robert De Niro and Willem Dafoe had to leave the production due to conflicts with their other productions. After post-production was nearly completed in , the film was delayed for over a year.
The official justification was after the September 11, attacks , certain elements of the picture may have made audiences uncomfortable; the film's closing shot is a view of modern-day New York City, complete with the World Trade Center's towers , despite their having been destroyed by the attacks over a year before the film's release.
It was ultimately decided to keep the towers unaltered. Weinstein kept demanding cuts to the film's length, and some of those cuts were eventually made. In December , Jeffrey Wells [ who? Wells reported the work print lacked narration, was about 20 minutes longer, and although it was "different than the [theatrical] version While Scorsese has stated the theatrical version is his final cut , he reportedly "passed along [the] three-hour-plus [work print] version of Gangs on tape [to friends] and confided, 'Putting aside my contractual obligation to deliver a shorter, two-hour-and-forty-minute version to Miramax , this is the version I'm happiest with,' or words to that effect.
In an interview with Roger Ebert , Scorsese clarified the real issues in the cutting of the film. Ebert notes,. His discussions with Weinstein, he said, were always about finding the length where the picture worked. When that got to the press, it was translated into fights. Robbie Robertson supervised the soundtrack's collection of eclectic pop, folk, and neo-classical tracks.
Scorsese received both praise and criticism for historical depictions in the film. In a PBS interview for the History News Network , George Washington University professor Tyler Anbinder said that the visuals and discrimination of immigrants in the film were historically accurate, but both the amount of violence depicted and the number of Chinese, particularly female, immigrants were much more common in the film than in reality.
Poole did not come from the Five Points and was assassinated nearly a decade before the Draft Riots. Both the fictional Bill and the real one had butcher shops, but Poole is not known to have killed anyone. Anbinder said that Scorsese's recreation of the visual environment of midth century New York City and the Five Points "couldn't have been much better".
According to Paul S. Boyer, "The period from the s to the s was a time of almost continuous disorder and turbulence among the urban poor. The decade from — saw more than major gang wars in New York City alone, and in other cities the pattern was similar. As early as , Mayor Philip Hone said: "This city is infested by gangs of hardened wretches" who "patrol the streets making night hideous and insulting all who are not strong enough to defend themselves.
The effect is to freeze ethno-cultural rivalries over the course of three decades and portray them as irrational ancestral hatreds unaltered by demographic shifts, economic cycles and political realignments. In the film, the Draft Riots are depicted mostly as acts of destruction but there was considerable violence during that week in July , which resulted in more than one hundred deaths, mostly freed African-Americans.
They were especially targeted by the Irish, in part because of fears of job competition that more freed slaves would cause in the city. The film references the infamous Tweed Courthouse , as "Boss" Tweed refers to plans for the structure as being "modest" and "economical".
In the film, Chinese Americans were common enough in the city to have their own community and public venues. Although Chinese people migrated to America as early as the s, significant Chinese migration to New York City did not begin until , the time when the transcontinental railroad was completed.
The Chinese theater on Pell St. The original target release date was December 21, , in time for the Academy Awards but the production overshot that goal as Scorsese was still filming. Harvey Weinstein then wanted the film to open on December 25, , but a potential conflict with another film starring Leonardo DiCaprio , Catch Me If You Can produced by DreamWorks , caused him to move the opening day to an earlier position.
After negotiations between several parties, including the interests of DiCaprio, Weinstein and DreamWorks' Jeffrey Katzenberg , the decision was made on economic grounds: DiCaprio did not want to face a conflict of promoting two movies opening against each other; Katzenberg was able to convince Weinstein that the violence and adult material in Gangs of New York would not necessarily attract families on Christmas Day.
Of main concern to all involved was attempting to maximize the film's opening day, an important part of film industry economics.
After three years in production, the film was released on December 20, , a year after its original planned release date. The website's critical consensus reads, "Though flawed, the sprawling, messy Gangs of New York is redeemed by impressive production design and Day-Lewis's electrifying performance. Roger Ebert praised the film but believed it fell short of Scorsese's best work, while his At the Movies co-star Richard Roeper called it a "masterpiece" and declared it a leading contender for Best Picture.
Some critics were disappointed with the film, with one review on CinemaBlend feeling it was overly violent with few characters worth caring about. Gangs of New York was listed on many critics' top ten lists. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. For other uses, see Gangs of New York disambiguation.
Theatrical release poster. Alberto Grimaldi Harvey Weinstein. Reilly Henry Thomas Brendan Gleeson. Buena Vista Distribution. Schermerhorn Lawrence Gilliard Jr. Barnum Barbara Bouchet as Mrs.
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