The Gangs of New York:
A Big Apple Massacre

         The 2002 film The Gangs of New York>, directed by Martin Scorsese, illustrates some main events that contributed to an all-city uproar in 1863. This movie was nominated for ten Academy Awards and up for two Golden Globes. The movie shows a interesting atmosphere along with costumes that make the movie intriguing. Some drawbacks are that the film has been criticized for exaggerating the violence in the gang fights and city riots, and also for historical inaccuracies. As for history, it is a blend of events that happened at different times, but the main ideas come through and that is what is important.

           The film opens in 1846, but most of the action takes place in the early 1860s, when the two problems in New York were the great wave of Irish immigration to the city and the federal government's prosecution of the American Civil War. The main plot is around Leonardo Dicaprio (Amsterdam) who is seeking vengeance against the Bill "The Butcher" Poole (Daniel Day-Lewis), who has killed his father (a former leader of one of the Irish gangs).  Amsterdam finds his way into Poole's circle with the help of the gorgeous pickpocket Jenny Everdeane (Cameron Diaz). During this time waves of immigrants were swelling the population of New York. Corruption and mayhem ruled Manhattan’s Five Points section. A territorial war has been raging between the natively born Americans and the Irish born immigrants.

         Regarding the historical aspects, I have discovered that the Irish came in at the bottom of the white social scale, but ahead of the blacks.  The Irish were given unskilled jobs such as laborers.  They often felt competition from blacks, who could be used with lower labor costs. The poor Irish, who were vulnerable to the draft, while the wealthy could pay for a substitute to take on their military service; therefore, the Irish were very prejudiced toward the blacks.

         The movie, I found, was extremely graphic and gory, but kept me hooked until the end, despite the length of the movie, which runs for 166 minutes. On the whole, I thought the movie did a decent job of recounting one of the most devastating times in U.S. history. It was action-packed, gory, and had a high shock factor that grabbed the attention of the audience and held it.

Jaclyn Ramage

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