Martin Scorsese recreates the birth of New York City in sprawling epic
By D.M. Terrace, Special to the Voice
In Gangs of New York, Martin Scorsese has taken a blood-and-scandal soaked non-fiction book from 1928 and brought much of it to the screen as the backdrop to a quite simple revenge drama. Or is it the other way around? This is a movie so jam-packed with detail and history (some real, some pastiche) that at all moments it threatens to swamp the characters. Most critics so far — Kenneth Turan, especially — have balked at this elephantine film, calling it interminable and obscure. But I quite liked the excess of it. In its portrait of a city, the film captures the density, confusion, and lawlessness therein. As an adaptation of a book that is really one juicy, violent tale after another, it succeeds largely because it has such a simple story as Hollywood wrapping.