Film: Epic Packs Punch but Lacks Heart; FILMS OF THE WEEK GANGS OF NEW YORK (18, 167mins) Leonardo DiCaprio, Daniel Day-Lewis, Cameron Diaz, Jim Broadbent, John C Reilly, Henry Thomas, Brendan Gleeson, David Hemmings, Liam Neeson. Director Martin Scorsese. THE GOOD GIRL (15, 93mins) Jennifer Aniston, Jake Gyllenhaal, John C Reilly, Tim Blake Nelson, Zooey Deschanel, Mike White, Deborah Rush. Director Miguel Arteta
ARTIN Scorsese returns to the mean streets of his beloved New York City for this 19th century tale of gang warfare and doomed love inspired by Herbert Asbury's book of the same name. Gangs Of New York is an epic undertaking, and with a budget estimated in excess of pounds 100m, the film is the director's grandest and riskiest project to date. Despite critical success and numerous awards, Scorsese's films rarely set the box office alight commercially, and regrettably Gangs Of New York will not recoup its money. Not by a long shot. If the director was hoping to make this year's Titanic, replete with Leonardo DiCaprio as the romantic hero, then he fails. Scorsese doesn't need an iceberg - the screenwriters sink the film with weak characterisation and a sprawling narrative. The Dead Rabbits and the Nativists are two gangs who rule the poorest neighbour-hoods of Big Apple with an iron fist. Rivalry between the two camps is fierce, and their skirmishes are increasingly bloody. Following the death of his father Priest Vallon(Neeson) at the hands of Nativist leader Bill ``The Butcher'' Cutting (Day-Lewis), young Amsterdam Vallon vows revenge.
Many years later, after the Dead Rabbits have been disbanded, Amsterdam (DiCaprio) returns to his home of the Five Points. Using a new identity, he infiltrates Bill's inner circle, winning the notorious leader's trust and respect. However, Amsterdam's plan comes undone when he falls in love with beautiful Irish pickpocket called Jenny (Diaz), whose past draws her to Amsterdam's sworn enemy. Gangs Of New York is technically astounding, from Scorsese's masterful direction of the epic battle scenes to Thelma Schoonmaker's hyperkinetic editing. The film also looks amazing, with the combined efforts of master setbuilders and special effects artists recreating New York in its grimy entirety. For all of its technical brio, the film lacks emotional heart. It's difficult to feel empathy for Amsterdam because the character is poorly sketched and DiCaprio's accent wanders from Boston to Tipperary and back again. Diaz is equally unappealing and there's no spark of sexual chemistry, even in the love scenes hastily reshot by Scorsese. However, Day-Lewis delivers a tour-de-force portrayal of evil that marks him as a front runner for the Oscars.
PICTURE the scene. March 23, 2003 - The 75th Academy Awards at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood. …