The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )
Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )
Studio and Year: Buena Vista/Disney - 2002
MPAA Rating: R
Feature running time: 167 Minutes
Disc Format: BD-50
Video Aspect: 2.35:1
Audio Format(s): English Uncompressed 5.1 PCM, English/French Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French
Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Leonardo Dicaprio, Cameron Diaz, Liam Neeson, Jim Broadbent, John C. Reilly, Henry Thomas
Directed by: Martin Scorsese
Music by: Howard Shore
Written by: Jay Cocks, Steven Zallian, Kenneth Lonergan
Region Code: A,B,C
Blu-ray Disc release Date: July 1, 2008
"America was born in the streets"
Gangs of New York chronicles a vivid period in New York’s history, when tensions among immigrant groups lead to a dramatic clash of cultures. After years of incarceration, Irish immigrant Amsterdam Vallon returns to lower Manhattan’s lawless, corrupt Five Po Section seeking revenge against the rival gang leader Bill “The Butcher” Cutting who killed his father. But before long, Amsterdam’s personal vendetta becomes part of an erupting wave of full blown gang warfare as he and his fellow Irishmen fight to carve a place form themselves in their newly adopted homeland!
My Take:I missed this film during its theatrical run but picked it up the day it was released on DVD. Gangs of New York is powerful storytelling that leaves an impression. Martin Scorsese is a brilliant Director who presents the audience with a visually stunning depiction of 1860s New York when at the onset of the Civil War in Lower Manhattan’s "Five Points" district, a territorial war is raging. For a number of years the gangs of the "Nativist" faction (comprising those born in the United States from earlier English & Dutch Protestant immigrants) and the recently arrived, predominantly Irish Catholic immigrants have been at odds. It is about to come to a head in Paradise Square.
The story contains multiple layers that are slowly peeled away during the course of the film. I love the attention to detail in the sets, costumes and language from the period. Day-Lewis portrays Bill “The Butcher” Cutting who is a straight forward yet complex character who is as cunning as he is ruthless. Day-Lewis of course plays the part to perfection. Leonardo DiCaprio exhibits strength, intensity, and resolve as the redemption seeking Amsterdam Vallon. As is usually the case I find his characters to be believable and likeable. The surprise for me was how good Cameron Diaz was as Jenny Everdeane. I have not seen all of her movies but those that I have seen prior to this one and since she is not impressed me as a strong dramatic performer. The early parts of the film establish the relationships between these characters. This is done quite well which pays dividends later in the story. The ensemble cast which includes some notable actors including Jim Broadbent, John C. Reilly, Henry Thomas, Liam Neeson and Brendan Gleeson were all excellent in support of the primary players. The film is graphic in its depiction which some may find distasteful. I think that it tries to be true to the time period and circumstances which require a level of vivid detail to heighten the sense of realism.
At 167 minutes this is not a short movie but as I said earlier its layers are slowly uncovered but that is not indicative of it being boring or slow moving. It builds to a satisfying climax that in the end seems rather simple but in a full circle kind of way. I seem to like this film better each time I watch it. This is my third viewing and it was no exception.
The rating is for Strong violence, sexuality/nudity and language. This is not one for young viewers.
AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65
**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Low frequency extension:
- Surround Sound presentation:
- Dialogue Reproduction:
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Black level/Shadow detail:
- Color reproduction:
Gangs of New York comes to Blu-ray Disc featuring 1080p VC-1 encoded video with an average bitrate of 25 mbps and lossless uncompressed 5.1 PCM audio with a constant bitrate of 6.9 mbps.
Like those of you reading this I looked forward to this release in high definition. The DVD had a few issues that I had hoped would not be the case here. The opening sequence shot within the dark and shadowy confines of the tunnels where young Amsterdam and his father (Priest Vallon) reside looked very promising. Detail in their clothing, faces and the winding underground labyrinth from which they immerge had good visible texture and delineation. Once they enter the outdoor square where the battle takes place the image took on a different look. Detail within the buildings in the backgrounds and surrounding objects was negligible. As the Dead Rabbits took their positions the camera view opposite them offered little in the way of definitive sharpness and perceivable clarity. As the film progresses there were instances where the level of visible detail improved but not to degree where it had the three dimensional quality and reach out and touch feeling that good high definition can have. Fine detail appeared to be obscured. This was definitely the case in longer shots while close ups revealed an improvement in quality that was still lacking in transparency and depth. I wouldn’t describe the video as being soft but rather it looked overly processed and artificial at times. Contrast was boosted which made whites look too hot with no visible gradation. Blacks were solid and deep with excellent dynamic range. Shadow delineation was above average overall but was inconsistent in rendering the amount of visible detail in dark scenes. Colors were deeply saturated with bold primaries and rich vibrant textures. Edge enhancement was visible around objects in bright scenes. I would describe it as excessive and it contributed to the video’s artificially processed appearance. This video presentation is certainly an improvement over the DVD in terms of resolution, color reproduction and dimensional perspective. The problem is that it falls short of the level of quality that we have become accustomed to not just from Disney Blu-ray Disc but from the better high definition releases we have seen from the format. I suspect that some will be disappointed with this one.
The lossless uncompressed PCM audio was another matter entirely. This sounded superb right from the opening battle between the Dead Rabbits and the Natives. The battle is set to Peter Gabriel’s “Signal to noise” and delivered a rousing sonic presentation that was dynamic and detailed. This mix is wonderfully diverse as it needed to reproduce the many aspects associated within this film’s soundtrack. It didn’t matter if it was a crowded street, a multi-layered edged weapon melee, the confines of an office, or an underground cavern. At every turn I was treated to crystal clear audio that had a voluminous quality that permeated the room. Sounds could be heard emanating from multiple points around the soundstage which created a realistic and immersive atmosphere. There was a very good balance maintained between the front and rear sound fields so that information was not lost or drowned out. Dialogue was well articulated with refined texture and tonality. I would not describe the mix as aggressive overall but it had moments where it displayed characteristics of an aggressive nature. Bass contained within the mix was authoritative and controlled. It had solidity and impact when necessary and aptly handled the mid bass frequencies associated with Howard Shore’s great music score. The soundtrack on a film like Gangs of New York can be an important element in the telling of the story. This audio presentation delivered the goods in that regard and sounded great.
The bonus supplements offered were ported from the 2003 DVD release and are in standard definition. It looks at the film’s costume and set design which includes insights from Director Martin Scorsese and production staff. There are several documentaries which look at the location and characters depicted in the film from a historical perspective. The Director’s Audio Commentary is quite good and worth checking out. The U2 Video and two trailers round out the package.
- Costume Design Feature
- Set Design Feature
- History of the Five Points Documentary
- Exploring the sets of Gangs of New York Feature
- U2 Music Video – The Hands that Built America
- Discovery Channel Special – Uncovering the real Gangs of New York
- Audio Commentary
- Theatrical Trailer
- Teaser Trailer
I am a fan of Gangs of New York and have been since seeing it back in 2003. I never tire of its gritty and deliberate story which whether historically accurate or not is excellent. Daniel Day-Lewis gave a compelling performance as Bill “The Butcher” Cutting which for me is a highlight when I re-visit this film. Disney/Buena Vista has brought this catalog title to high definition Blu-ray featuring video quality that will disappoint videophiles. It does deliver a powerful and enriching surround sound experience that has never sounded better. I appreciated the inclusion of the majority of bonus content from the earlier DVD release which was quite good as well. I enjoy this movie and right now it does not look or sound any better than this. While this may not be a perfect Blu-ray Disc release it has become part of my collection. ‘Nuff said.
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