New York is a contemporary story of friendship set against the larger than life backdrop of a city often described as the centre of the world. Omar has gone abroad for the first time in his life and soon enough he begins to see and love America through the eyes of his American friends - Sam and Maya. It is the story of these three friends discovering a new world together.
Long awaited, enormously expensive, endlessly gossiped-about, Martin Scorsese's brutal epic of mid-19th-century Manhattan is a near-great film that, as time goes by, may well make up the distance. As has happened before with this director's films, the fairly conventional story — a revenger's tragedy pitting a young Irish immigrant (Leonardo DiCaprio) against his father's killer, a nativist warlord (Daniel Day-Lewis) — is less interesting than the setting. Mr. Day-Lewis gives his character, known as Bill the Butcher, an earthy Shakespearean grandeur. In his mouth, the rough vernacular of the old New York streets becomes poetry. If Mr. DiCaprio and Cameron Diaz (in the underimagined role of a spirited pickpocket) don't shed their movie-star auras, they do show themselves to be intrepid and engaging actors. But the real achievement of the movie is in the way it brings history to life — not merely by meticulously recreating its details, but by offering a troubling and timely interpretation of how the violence and iniquity of the past continues to ramify into the present. The film, flawed and indelible, is nothing less than an attempt to reimagine the germs of America's historical identity. It suggests, with vivid plausibility, that clues to the national character can be found in the violent, contradictory and often tragic story of the urban immigrant working class. — A. O. Scott
2002-12-20 | A. O. Scott | Read the New York Times Review of Gangs of New York