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Film Review: Gangs of New York

These lads put the 'gang' into 'gangster'. Apparently.

Safely ensconced at the late show in Wexfords cinema I settled in for the much hyped Gangs of New York. I wasn't too sure what to expect, it had great potential from Scorsese's name all over it but the over advertising made me wonder.

Gangs of New York Set in New York (mere coincidence with the title) the film details the fight between the arrival of the Irish emigrant horde and their struggle with those American, Irish-American and every other nationality already living, existing, fighting, drinking, hooring and surviving at a place called the Five Points in the city.

Daniel Day Lewis is fabulous in this. Much had been made of the method acting, his leaving Wicklow behind and generally wandering around the film set with a weapon, firmly locked in character. He plays a vicious sort called William 'Bill the Butcher' Cutting, (imagine that, a butcher called Cutting, I love it), who he played so well it made me nervous every time he came on the screen, because you didn't know whether he would merely speak with a hint of violence or spark into a viciousness which he looked as if he sensually enjoyed. Nervous, nervous, nervous. Brilliant stuff.

Our beloved Leonardo plays an Irish American called Amsterdam (just to add to the confusion) whose father (Liam Neeson) was killed by Bill the Butcher and Amsterdam returns etc. etc. Leo is relatively OK in the part but I could never see a guy like Bill the Butcher being too worried about pretty boy Leo. He is adequate, wrong casting I would humbly submit. Apparently he did it for free and I imagine they needed some big names. Cameron Diaz looks well and that about sums up her part. Brendan Gleeson (The General himself) fits in very well, as per usual. Other Irish faces that crossed the screen inlcuded Finbar Fury (with his eyes open!) and Maura O' Connell.

It dragged a wee bit, who would have thought the Irish back then talked so much? But it provides a side to Irish history which rams home to the viewer that New York wasn't the land of milk and honey, more like a constant fight for survival if you weren't rich. Particularly poignant is the arrival of the immigrants who are immediately signed up for the American Civil war.

Overall it is certainly worth seeing, especially for wee Daniel. I wouldn't be expecting a thrilling epic but worth a visit.

Brian James

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