Gangs of New York 「ギャング・オブ・ニューヨーク」

2003年 3月 04日
作者: Jon Pauley

出演者:レオナルド・ディカプリオ 、キャメロン・ディアス 、ダニエル・デイ=ルイス 、リーアム・ニーソン 、ヘンリー・トーマス
19世紀 ニューヨーク。 野蛮なまでに縄張り争いを繰り広げる移民同士の抗争の中を力強く生きた人々の壮絶な生き様を綴ったこの作品は、ニューヨークの秘められた歴史をひもとく超大作である。

Director Martin Scorsese’s latest telling of New York circa. 1863 is poignant and interesting because it is a movie about the evolution of one of the greatest city’s in the world. It is a story of the complex issues surrounding immigration in what was once called the “melting pot of America.” The film is also about the abrasive racism encountered by most foreigners upon arrival in New York. As New York’s history has proven, each immigrant group that followed another encountered a frightening amount of hostility from another ethnic group. Much of what history books teach us in the United States leave out the blatant racism of American culture and gloss New York City in a light of an all accepting capital of the world. The truth of the matter is that New York is a hostile city, even now, especially for those who recently immigrated. Gangs of New York, allows the viewer to see a turning point in a once corrupt and unjust city. It also gives witness to the violence and mythology of the “American way.”

The film is mainly a tale of revenge by Amsterdam Vallon (Leonardo DiCaprio). Vallon saw his father, ‘Priest’ Vallon (Liam Neeson) brutally murdered in a gang fight by William Cutting, a.k.a. Bill the Butcher (Daniel Day-Lewis). After the murder of his father, Amsterdam is sent to a reform school and returns to a neighborhood called Five Points, originally located in lower Manhattan. The neighborhood is a bleak and violent slum where drunks, prostitutes, murderers, thieves and corrupt politicians all mingle together on the streets. Vallon’s father was the leader of a gang called The Dead Rabbits. Bill the Butcher leads a gang called the Natives. When Amsterdam returns to his neighborhood of birth, he befriends Bill the Butcher, only to drive his hatred of him to a complicated and emotional conclusion. Both must act to not only save face, but to also prove who is the more powerful in a landscape that is struggling to change into a more civilized society. Yet, because the film takes place in 1863, during the American Civil War, the changes occurring in New York City are not the same as what is happening in America. It almost seems as if the citizens of New York want to clear away some of the corruption, but don’t know how. The violence of the War eventually comes to wreak havoc on the city and it explodes into a massacre. There is confusion and lines drawn between the rich and the poor, blacks and whites, and finally the North and the South.

Amazingly, the film shows how New York has changed immensely in its short existence. It is unbelievable to realize that Scorsese’s New York was there only 140 years ago. The city is entirely different now. And although it is plagued by its own difficulties due to its size and diversity, it is truly remarkable how much the city has grown up and changed for the better at such a rapid pace. It is cohesive now and the New York of 1863 was not in the least. New York, as this film proves, is a true achievement of men and women changing their environments for the better, but to change it, many mistakes need to be made along the way.

It is important to note that the film is excessively violent, as are all of the director’s films. The violence is necessary though, because without it, it would be promoting a disservice to what occurred politically and sociologically in a specific place in the United States as it was building and establishing its mythical and various histories. Gangs of New York deserves praise for its telling of a part of a city’s history that is usually ignored or glossed over. Scorsese has the courage to sidestep any romantic notions of the city and instead shows us unrelenting hardships and a society torn to bits by corruption and poverty. As they say, the truth ain’t always pretty, but it must be acknowledged.