Picture: producers: Alberto Grimaldi, Martin Scorsese
Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis, Leonardo DiCaprio
Cinematography: Michael Ballhaus
Editor: Thelma Schoonmaker
Production design: Dante Ferretti
Costume design: Sandy Powell
Original song: U2
Martin Scorsese’s long-awaited chronicle of New York’s Five Points gangs could very well land the director his long-awaited Oscar.
After delays, rumored rifts with Miramax brass, and boatloads of hype and buzz, “Gangs” will reach the screen on Dec. 20 — and it promises to be worth the wait.
Epic brims with kudos vets in all departments. Oscar winner Daniel Day-Lewis (“My Left Foot”) — touted as a contender since pic’s 20-minute teaser unpooled in Cannes — turns in an intense, comic-surreal perf as cleaver-wielding gang head Bill “The Butcher” Cutting. And “Titanic” star Leonardo DiCaprio, an Oscar nominee for “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape,” sheds much of his rascally image as the vengeful Amsterdam Vallon. Cameron Diaz also gives a lusty perf as a woman devoted to two men.
Smaller roles show off the talents of Oscar-winner Jim Broadbent (“Iris”), as opportunistic politician Boss Tweed, and Oscar-nominee Liam Neeson as Priest Vallon, whose murder is the motivating factor for orphaned son Amsterdam’s actions. John C. Reilly plays a Five Points cop on the take and proves to be quite the Miramax house thesp this year, with roles in two other pics from the distrib, “Chicago” and “The Hours” (which Par has domestically and Miramax overseas).
Behind the camera, a long list of Scorsese’s prior collaborators are in top form.
There’s five-time Oscar nominee Dante Ferretti, who miraculously converted Rome’s Cinecitta backlot into 1800s Manhattan. And cinematographer Michael Ballhaus, who marks his sixth teaming with Scorsese, ably captures both the scenic and intimate as well as the pic’s light and dark contrasts.
Editor Thelma Schoonmaker, who received an Oscar for Scorsese’s “Raging Bull” probably toiled the hardest, along with the helmer, over the last year to get the pic in theaters.
And there’s “The Age of Innocence” scribe Jay Cocks, who developed the script with Scorsese over two decades. Cocks shares writing credits with Oscar winner Steven Zaillian (“Schindler’s List”), who structured, while Oscar nominee Kenneth Lonergan (“You Can Count on Me”) refined, coming up with a complex weave of history, action and drama.
Oscar winner Sandy Powell (“Shakespeare in Love”) designed detailed costumes with muted shades of reds and blues that blend expertly with city’s dirt and grime.
Beyond its impressive pedigree, pic falls into a much accoladed Oscar genre: the historical epic. Recently, “Gladiator,” another revenge pic, won five Oscars.
“Gangs” also raises timely questions about citizenship, racism and conscription — important themes that usually get Academy attention.