Gangs of New York Review and Blu-ray Features
Gangs of New York
20 December 2002
Behind the Scene and other Major Plot Points
New York skyline in the end
Martin Scorsese ends the film with a shot of the New York skyline which includes the World TRADE CENTER Towers, even though the film was finished after the buildings were destroyed in the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001. Scorsese chose to end on that shot rather then continue with a skyline without the WTC because the movie is supposed to be about the people who build New York, not those who tried to destroy it.
Base on real person
Most of the gangs mentioned by name were real 19th-century New York gangs. Bill “The Butcher” Cutting is based largely on real-life New York gang leader Bill Poole, who also was known as “The Butcher” and had much the same prestige as Daniel Day-Lewis’ character.
Influence of the main character in the film
Bill the Butcher has a scene with every main and supporting character in the film, a symbol of his vast influence in the Five Points.
Bill’s hard “New Yok” accent wasn’t entirely fabricated. Martin Scorsese actually did some research by listening to a voice recording of Walt Whitman and by reading an old PLAY in which the dialog was spelled out phonetically.
“1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Included among the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”, edited by Steven Schneider.
Cinematographer Michael Ballhaus was handed a lavish book of Rembrandt prints when he signed on to the film, and was told by Martin Scorsese that that was how he wanted the film to look like.
Based on real life New York Gangs at the Five Points
Before the battle at the beginning of the film, several gangs introduce themselves. At least three of them (the Dead Rabbits, the Bowery Boys and the Forty Thieves) were real life New York gangs at the Five Points from the 1860’s and 1870’s. Their appearance, weapons of choice and behavior is accurate and, in reality, many of their members ended up a politicians later on.
Production designer Dante Ferretti recreated over a mile of mid-nineteenth century buildings…
…Consisting of a five block area of Lower Manhattan, including the Five Points slum, part of the East River waterfront with two full-sized sailing ships, a thirty building stretch of lower Broadway and replicas of a mansion, Tammany Hall, a church, a saloon, a Chinese theater and a gambling casino.
RT/Meta Critic Review
It’s a story of violence, revenge, racial intolerance and class struggle, and it’s a story told extremely well. (Click here to see)
The previously released, rightfully reviled Blu-ray edition of Gangs of New York was greeted with fierce criticism when it arrived in 2008. The reason? It featured one of the most disappointing high definition presentations of the year; a shoddy transfer hobbled by rampant edge enhancement, color blooming, debilitating DNR, compression artifacts, vertical striping, smearing, and black crush. Suffice to say, it was an absolute mess. Well, dear readers, welcome to 2010. Disney has quietly released a newly remastered version of Gangs of New York into the wild; one blessed with a gorgeous 1080p/AVC-encoded stunner that finally gives the film its due. Michael Ballhaus’s hearthy interiors, shadowy alleyways, and bright battlefields are gorgeous, boasting sumptuous autumnal hues and rich, exceedingly natural blacks. Moreover, a veneer of grain lends his visual tour de force the fittingly filmic appearance it sorely lacks in Disney’s previous Blu-ray release. Contrast is strong and stable, delineation is as revealing as it should be from shot to shot, and the image is clean and attractive. You won’t find any distracting artifacts, bursts of noise, mysterious lines, print blemishes, or waxy faces. Detail is immaculate as well, delivering sharp edges, refined textures, and remarkable clarity. A few soft shots dot the proceedings (a closeup of DiCaprio in an opium house represents the worst of it), but every instance can be traced back to the original photography, not the studio’s technical efforts.
If I have any complaint, it’s that a somewhat negligible bit of ringing still appears when actors are framed by Scorsese’s white skies. It’s rare, mind you, and a far cry from the maddening halos that plagued its previous Blu-ray release, but eagle-eyed videophiles with large screens will notice it nonetheless. That being said, I couldn’t be more pleased with Disney’s remastered presentation. Bold and beautiful, it represents a striking and sincere apology from a studio that’s made a habit of righting old wrongs. Disney has done right by their fans and their film, and that shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Thankfully, the film’s audio presentation is as strong as ever. Granted, it materializes in the form of a meaty DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track instead of the uncompressed PCM mix that graced Disney’s previous release, but the two 48kHz/24-bit experiences are all but identical. Dialogue is crisp and well-prioritized, placing every pleading whisper, desperate shout, and gravely threat at the forefront of an already immersive soundfield. LFE output is hearty and able-bodied, rear speaker activity is persistent and satisfying, and directionality is quite convincing. Fire brigades clash as blazing buildings roar, cannon fire decimates two opposing forces who remain determined to eliminate one another, gunfire slaughters an angry mob… it all sounds fantastic. But quieter scenes are just as impressive. While the soundscape isn’t nearly as aggressive, acoustics and ambience remain steady and stable. A handful of scenes are a bit too quiet, but each instance struck me as intentional. Even so, Howard Shore’s score deftly mingles with Scorsese’s epic, effects are potent and precise, and dynamics leave a sizeable mark. Fans can finally say Gangs of New York has never looked or sounded any better.
Though presented in standard definition (sorry gents, Disney’s commendable convictions apparently didn’t extend to the disc’s supplemental package), the special features included on the Blu-ray edition of Gangs of New York add substantial value to the release. Granted, a shiny new Picture-in-Picture track would have been a godsend, but those looking for quality over quantity will be excited to plow through everything the disc has to offer.
- Audio Commentary: Anyone who questions director Martin Scorsese’s passion for filmmaking or his command of his craft need only listen to one of his commentaries. Scorsese plows through the history, influences, stories, firsthand accounts, and research that made Gangs of New York the film it is, all while putting each scene, each directorial decision into perspective. He juggles thoughtful analysis, technical details, and production anecdotes with ease, delivering a rousing lecture that suggests Scorsese could have been a fascinating college professor. There are lengthy gaps of silence — the track’s lone fault — but for a three-hour movie, Uncle Marty’s pauses amount to little more than a minor distraction.
- History of the Five Points (SD, 14 minutes): An all-too-brief overview of the history of the era, and the realities of the commercial conflicts, racism, rivalries, and dangers that plagued 19th Century New York.
- Set Design (SD, 9 minutes): Scorsese and production designer Dante Ferretti discuss the film’s massive sets, the attention to detail that went into every building and cityscape, and the benefits they reaped by staying true to the grit, grime, and atmosphere of the time.
- Exploring the Sets (SD, 23 minutes): Ferretti and Scorsese host an absorbing (albeit slightly chatty) tour of the streets of Gangs of New York, dissecting the work and craftsmanship that went into the cobblestone roads, dilapidated buildings, and toppled walls that dot the city.
- Costume Design (SD, 8 minutes): A fitting companion piece to the disc’s “Set Design” short, this featurette touches on the details and personalities of the film’s costumes.
- Uncovering the Real Gangs of New York (SD, 35 minutes): Plucked from the Discovery Channel, upbeat narration intact, this television special boasts additional insight into the many gangs that ran New York in the 19th Century. The only downside? It occasionally retreads ground covered elsewhere on the disc.
- Music Video (SD, 5 minutes): U2 performs “The Hands That Built America.”
- Teaser and Theatrical Trailers (SD, 5 minutes)