Gangs of New York (2002) [Blu-Ray]

Genre(s): Crime / Drama
Miramax || R - 166 minutes - $34.99 || July 1, 2008
Reviewer: Brad Lowenberg || Posted On: 2008-07-21


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.:: F I L M ::.
The Film

S P E C I A L
.: F E A T U R E S :.

Special Features

.:: V I D E O ::.
Video

.:: A U D I O ::.
Audio

.:: O V E R A L L ::.
Overall
.::MOVIE INFORMATION::.
Director: Martin Scorsese
Writer(s): Jay Cocks (story), Jay Cocks and Steven Zaillian and Kenneth Lonergan (screenplay)
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Daniel Day-Lewis, Cameron Diaz, Jim Broadbent, John C. Reilly, Liam Neeson, Brendan Gleeson


Theatrical Release Date: December 20, 2002


.::DVD INFORMATION::.
Supplemental Material:
  • Director's Commentary
  • History of Five Points
  • Set Design
  • Exploring the Sets
  • Costume Design
  • Discover Channel Special
  • Music Video
  • Theatrical Trailer


Technical Information:
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Widescreen (2.35)
  • English (PCM 5.1), English (Dolby Digital 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English, French

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.::THE FILM::.

While not one of Scorsese' best films, itís still a very enjoyable look at the early years of New York and the gangs that inhabited it.

Gangs of New York is a very tough film to follow as it branches out with several different plots that all come together at the end for an amazing battle. The film starts out with a great battle between by Bill 'The Butcher' Cutting (Daniel Day-Lewis) and a rival gang, The Dead Rabbits lead by Priest Vallon (Liam Neeson). During battle, Bill manages to kill the priest and by doing so the priestsí son, Amsterdan, is sent away.

Years have now passed and Amsterdam (Leonardo DiCaprio), now a grown man, returns to Manhattan to seek revenge on the man who killed his father. When he returns he starts to piece together that some of his fatherís followers have since changed sides and now follow Bill either out of fear, or because they now believe in him. Amsterdan quickly discoverers a way to get in on Bills good side and soon plans a way of revenge. A mostly fictional story sprinkled with some historical accuracies make the film even more believable that is really should be. While Bill Cutting is actually loosely based on someone similar by the name Bill Poole, nearly all the other characters in the film are a work of fiction.

The best thing about this movie (much like There Will Be Blood) is the performance by Daniel Day-Lewis. He is simply an amazing actor that brings so much emotion to the screen itís a dream to watch. I don't care who was on screen or what was happening, but when Daniel starts to speak...you listen. I still firmly believe that Daniel was robbed for the Oscar that year by Adrien Brody. He would get my vote for one the greatest actors of all time.

The rest of the cast does a decent job. Leonard DiCaprio gives us a fine performance, though I do think his accent was a bit annoying at times. Scorsese really helped him get away from his king of the world persona. While I typically like Cameron Diaz, in Gangs she just feels useless. There is no real point to her character (besides giving the film a female lead and love interest) and she could have been easily played by numerous other female actresses.

My main issues with the film is it comes in at a run time of 166 minutes... which is just way to long for the average moviegoer to sit through. Many scenes here could have easily been cut or simply reduced as they were simply just throwaway scenes that appeared to simply pad out Daniel's amazing performance. Had the film but cut to something a bit more edible for audiences (say 130 minutes), I strongly believe it could have done better during its theatrical run. Apparently the original cut of the film ran an extra hour...which just seems like overkill.



.::SPECIAL FEATURES::.

All special features are presented in SD.

Commentary with Director Martin Scorsese - Scorsese has so many things to talk about here that this is almost something that just has to be listened to. He is chock full of background information and historical facts it made me feel like I was watching a History Channel Special.

History of the Five Points - Probably the most comprehensive look on the entire disc which gives us just oodles of information by professionals.

Set Design - A very short look at some production art and exactly what it took to rebuild NY in Italy.

Exploring the Sets - A very personal tour with Scorsese where he goes through and shows us the massive size and work it took to make the sets look authentic.

Costume Design - A look at how all the period pieces were made and incorporated into the film.

Discovery Channel Special: Uncovering the REAL Gangs of New York - A fluff piece that discusses a little bit of the real Gangs of New York while it plugs the film more times than it should.

Other features present on the disc are a music video for the U2 song The Hands that Built America as well as a trailer.

Also included is a mail-in rebate for those that already own Gangs of New York on DVD and wish to get a $10 check back by mail (by cutting out the UPC and both versions).



.::AUDIO & VIDEO::.

Gangs of New York is presented in 2.35:1 (AVC/MPEG-4) on a 50GB Disc. Ugh. This is easily one of the worst transfers to ever appear in a Blue case. So many things went wrong here. The original DVD suffered from some horrendous edge enhancement, digital noise reduction and many, many other issues. All of those issues have unfortunately been carried over for this Blu-ray release. Detail is gone and a few times a purple vertical line appeared on the screen for no apparent reason (at roughly the 1 hour and 7 minute mark). At one point the pictures starts to shutter up and down... whatís going on? The only good thing I can say is that blacks are pretty impressive and several times a still shot appeared to look great... but other than that, this is just a poor release.

Disney has include an Uncompressed English 5.1 PCM track (48kHz/24-Bit) as well as standard English and French Dolby Digital Tracks (be careful as the disc automatically chooses the standard 5.1 track over PCM). Unlike the picture quality, I was pretty impressed with the sound. The score comes through very loud and dialog is clear and clean. The last twenty minutes of the film definitely produces some amazing bass and is sure to give your windows a little shake.



.::OVERALL::.

Gangs of New York is an amazing film that should be watched at least once. However this Blu-ray release sports one of the worst transfer available on the Blu-ray disc format. Until Disney fixes this (either by a re-issue or Special Edition) I would recommend only a rent and not a purchase, regardless of how you feel about the film. The only shining beacon here is the fact that the entire movie is presented on one disc and not two like the previous DVD release.

While some may argue I am giving a low overall score, the fact is most people who buy catalog Blu-ray releases already know if they like the film or not as these are not typically blind buys (even more so as Disney is encouraging people to upgrade their old DVD counterpart by including a $10 rebate). The fact that the picture quality is barley an upgrade from the previous poor DVD release makes this a very questionable release even for fans of the film or Director Martin Scorsese.