Wednesday, June 30, 2010
That's his "Happy" Jack Mulraney next to Liam Neeson's Priest Vallon in Martin Scorsese's 2002 film. It's no wonder that I'd forgotten he was in the movie given that Gangs wasn't on my "must revist" list since I first saw it 8 years ago. So I'm at a loss to explain why I plopped down $10 or so to see the movie again on Blu Ray.
But I'm kind of glad that I did.
It's still by no stretch my favorite Scorsese film - it remains to my mind a series of moments instead of a solid picture. The way the first 20-30 minutes or so of the movie scream music video/collection of cool images (it looks cool but I didn't feel anything for it during this chunk of time) and the feeling is reinforced anytime the camera lingers on drummers, dancers and singers frequently and conspicuously.
I'm sure part of my initial rejection of Gangs was the casting of DiCaprio opposite Cameron Diaz. I thought my problem with the pairing was him but rewatching it last night I realized that it was actually her. Some of it comes down to her Jenny feeling underwritten and kind of just there to react to the real drama between Leo's Amsterdam and Daniel Day Lewis' Bill The Butcher. Wedged in between these two dynamic forces, Jenny feels positively vacant. It doesn't help that at no point do I buy Amsterdam and Jenny's chemistry - while he spends most of the movie looking like a boy she looks like a full-grown woman and it always feels "off" when they're together.
The other (and most important) thing that bugged me about the movie it its treatment of New York as a subject. The script and direction can't stop reminding us that this is a movie about the birth of modern New York, don't you see?! I still cringe when Leo introduces himself as Amsterdam to Bill who responds with, "And I'm New York." It put me in the mind of the Hughes Brothers' not-as-bad-as-they-say-but-still-not-great From Hell, which cribbed elements of London's growing pains upon entering the 20th century, but in such as way as to just become all text instead of subtext. I'm sorry, but by the time it reached the closing sequence with the U2's "Hands That Built America" I was done with the movie before it was done with me.
Posted by Charles Webb at Wednesday, June 30, 2010