Gangs of New York

  • Directors: Martin Scorsese
  • Producers: Alberto Grimaldi, Harvey Weinstein
  • Writers: Jay Cocks, Steven Zaillian, Kenneth Lonergan
  • Genres: Crime, Drama
  • Actors: Leonardo DiCaprio, Daniel Day Lewis, Cameron Diaz, John C Reilly, Henry Thomas, Jim Broadbent, Liam Neeson, Brendan Gleeson, Barbara Bouchet

In 1846, in Lower Manhattan’s “Five Points” district, a territorial war raging for years between the “Natives” (comprising those born in the United States) and recently arrived Irish Catholic immigrants, is about to come to a head in Paradise Square. The Natives are led by William “Bill the Butcher” Cutting (Daniel Day-Lewis), a White Anglo-Saxon Protestant with an open hatred of recent immigrants. The leader of the immigrant Irish, the “Dead Rabbits,” is Priest Vallon (Liam Neeson), who has a young son, Amsterdam (played as a child by Cian McCormack). Cutting and Vallon meet with their respective gangs in a horrific and bloody battle, concluding when Bill kills Priest Vallon, which Amsterdam witnesses. Cutting declares the Dead Rabbits outlawed and orders Vallon’s body be buried with honor. Amsterdam seizes the knife that kills his father, races off and buries it. He is found and taken to the orphanage at Hellgate.

Sixteen years later, Amsterdam returns to New York a grown man (Leonardo DiCaprio). Arriving in Five Points, he reunites with an old friend, Johnny Sirocco (Henry Thomas). Johnny, now a member of a clan of pickpockets and thieves, introduces Amsterdam to Bill the Butcher, for whom the group steals. Amsterdam finds many of his father’s old loyalists are now under Bill’s control, including Happy Jack Mulraney (John C. Reilly), now a corrupt city constable and in Bill’s pocket, and McGloin (Gary Lewis), now one of Bill’s lieutenants. Amsterdam soon works his way into the Butcher’s inner circle. Amsterdam learns that each year, on the anniversary of the Five Points battle (February 16), Bill leads the city in saluting the victory over the Dead Rabbits, and he makes plans to kill the Butcher during this ceremony, in front of the entire Five Points community, in order to exact public revenge.

The dead are collected for burial. Bill’s body is buried in Brooklyn, in view of the Manhattan skyline, adjacent to the grave of Priest Vallon. Jenny and Amsterdam visit as Amsterdam buries his father’s razor. Amsterdam narrates New York would be rebuilt, but they are no longer remembered, as if “we were never here”. The scene then shifts over the next hundred years, giving us a view as the modern New York begins building up from the Brooklyn Bridge all the way to the World Trade Center, and the graves of Bill and Priest Vallon gradually become covered in bushes and weeds.

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