Deserving of most of the Oscars it was nominated for, Gangs of New York is an all encompassing look at a turbulent time in America’s history many were unaware of prior to the film’s release. Scorsese may focus the story on two men, but the time period and attention to detail draw the viewer into to far more than the core revenge tale. Outstanding performances are another aspect of the film that make is such remarkable piece to view.
Incredible sets dominate the screen, setting the tone. The grim, dirty slums are almost colorless at times, adding to the bleak dire circumstances of the thousands of immigrants living in these quarters. Leonardo DiCaprio stars alongside Daniel Day-Lewis, both offering some of their best work to date. Cameron Diaz undoubtedly offers her highest level performance, a far cry from some of the lesser light hearted comedies she’s usually placed in. Here she’s allowed to show range and emotion, and pulls it off.
Gangs of New York is hardly unwilling to show off brutality. Fight sequences are loaded with gushing wounds, amputations, gallons of blood, and otherwise graphic death. It’s not used to shock, but increase the intensity of the emotional impact so important to the film as a whole.
Coming in at close to three hours, Gangs could easily lose 20 minutes without affecting the story. Some dialogue feels redundant, and certain shots sit on screen longer than they need to. Also, some oddly placed humor (the elephant escape before the finale) takes away from certain moments, and some darker humor feels out of place too. These are some great laughs, though miscued.
Gangs will come off as boring to some as the limited action hardly constitutes gang warfare. However, the build up makes the explosive (literally) finish that much more intense and exciting. The performances keep the film alive to the end, and impossible to turn away from.
Embarrassing is the only way to describe this Blu-ray edition of the film. This is an ugly, nearly grotesque transfer that’s hardly worthy of being on the format. Edge enhancement is appalling, possibly the worst you’ll find on the format. Whites are bleached to the point where no detail shows through. Flesh tones are completely off and rarely correct. Colors bleed into each other. Extreme close ups are the only times you’ll find evidence of detail. Disney should be ashamed of themselves for releasing a disc no better than its DVD counterpart.