Gangs of New York takes place between the late 1840’s through the 1860’s in Lower Manhattan’s Five Points, one of the roughest and toughest ghettos of all time. The film begins with Liam Neeson’s honorable character, “Priest” Vallon, and his gang, the “Dead Rabbits," in a battle for the streets against Daniel Day-Lewis’s character, William Cutting (a. k. a. Bill, The Butcher), and the “Nativists." Adolescent “Amsterdam” Vallon witnesses Bill “The Butcher” slay “Priest” Vallon, his father. The death of the “Dead Rabbits” leader gives the “Nativists” victory over the streets. William Cutting sends the young Vallon to be cared for by the state.
The story continues in the 1860’s during a rush of Irish immigration, the Civil War, incredible violence, political corruption, and young Vallon returning to avenge his father’s death. Leonardo DiCaprio plays the older Vallon, who becomes the apprentice of his father’s murderer and learns that the name of his father’s gang, the “Dead Rabbits,” cannot be said aloud. He also discovers that many of the old gang members have fallen to the side of the “Natives." While Amsterdam slides further into Bill “The Butcher's" world of power and corruption, he meets Cameron Diaz’s character, Jenny Everdean, a pickpocket and ex-lover of Bill. This love triangle becomes more complicated when Amsterdam’s jealous best friend Johnny rats to Bill the true identity of Amsterdam and his plans of revenge. The 16th annual celebration of the “Natives” victory in the Five Points is also the turning point in the film, when Amsterdam attempts to kill the suspecting Bill. Instead, Bill beats Amsterdam to near-death. Jenny is somehow able to get away with Amsterdam and hide him so he may recuperate and plan his next attack. After some time, Amsterdam challenges Bill to a battle which would include all the gangs of the street. The Battle for the Five Points occurs and is actually interrupted by the Draft Riots and the power of the United States Army.
Copyright (c) 2003 Jillian Elizabeth Brady, Undergraduate at Lehigh University.
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