Gangs of New YorkReview by Dave Smith
Martin Scorcese has always loved violence. From "Mean Streets" (1973) to "Taxi Driver" (1976) to "Raging Bull" (1980) to "Goodfellas" (1990) to "Cape Fear" (1991) and now perhaps his most violent film of all, "Gangs of New York." True, the movie-going public has an insatiable appetite for violence and thus, violent movies usually do very well at the box office. However, "Gangs of New York" is so overwhelmingly violent it almost turns your stomach. The film is based loosely on a 1928 book by Herbert Asbury. Scorsese's obvious aim is to make this an epic film showing how America was born out of violence and how much immigrants helped shape this country. While this does come across, it comes across much too heavy-handed. This film will not rank up there with the "Godfather" epics. Though nominated in many categories, it will not run away with the oscars. The only actor deserving of an oscar is Daniel Day-Lewis whose portrayal of the relentlessly evil "Cutter," leader of the "Native-born Americans" is right on target. Both Leonardo DiCaprio and Cameron Diaz are miscast. DiCaprio is not a John Wayne/Charlton Heston/Clint Eastwood type and this film needs someone of that heroic proportion. DiCaprio is a soft, sensitive type of an actor. He doesn't belong in this type of role. Diaz looks like a thinly-disguised modern-day California girl. The sets and the costumes are magnificent, but they are not enough to make this film a great one.