“Gangs of New York” is set in the XIX century in the Five Points district of New York City in the time when New York and its current famous Manhattan district were built and gained the status they have today. Although the consultants of the movie included professional historians, there are actually some inaccuracies in the plot.
First of all, in New York City, the slavery was abolished in 1928, whereas, according to the film, it happened in 1846.
Also, one of the heroes of the movie escaped from prison more than once and still got his term lengthened every time instead of being accused of recidivism and condemned to a death penalty according to the laws of that time.
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Another inaccuracy concerns the riots on the territory of New York City called the draft riots. These were the most serious discontents of the working class in America during the XIX century. In the film, they were depicted as happening in the 1840s, whereas in reality, they took place in 1863, from July 13th to July 16th.
The fighting between the fire companies over who gets to put out the fire does not correspond to the reality. At those times, the fire companies were municipal and therefore did not earn much money as the later fire fighting teams did for their services.
Threatening people to vote and signing up bonuses to volunteer for the war could not have happened either. Democracy was not on the same level as it is now, and every national minority literally had to fight as hard as they could for the right and privilege to live on the American land. That is why political paramilitary clubs existed on the territory of each smaller district of the city.
The sad smile of sarcasm is caused by the position of one chamber of political parties of New York: seeing how soldiers kill people, insurgent against the abolition of slavery, the hero, notices being slightly concerned: “What a pity, how many voices of electors disappeared for nothing!” Does not it remind you his world view attitude toward an electorate exposed by some modern politicians?
The film focuses much attention on the religious Catholic-Protestant conflict. However, the majority of the fighting took place among gangs of Irish-Catholic Five Pointers. And the movie certainly overestimated the level of bloodiness and the number of victims.
One more misconception shown in the movie for the sake of the plot and the visual appeal is the stereotype about the weak moral compass of the Fiver Pointers mobs. They, in fact, were the citizens with a lifestyle that was close to normal; they had official jobs and paid the local taxes.
All events in a film is a continuous dynamics; one event is replaced by another and does not have time for people in the cinema hall to dry out tears, appearing to view of one heart-rending episode only to be replaced by a new one: in spite of the fact that a picture obviously is not the typical English melodrama or a Mexican “soap opera”, the senses of audience at all times are on the limit, nerves are constantly tense, and attitude toward life, strangely enough, also suffers substantial changes.
The streets of the XIX-century New York were reconstructed in Rome especially for the shooting time, so some minor inconsistencies with the names of the streets can be spotted, but there is nothing too serious here that could possibly harm the plot.
Martin Scorsese turns the fiercest criminals into charming people on the screen, and the traditionally good fellows look incredibly cruel but honest and kind somewhere deeply in the soul. However, the protagonist, the son of the lost ringleader of the Irish people, is not an interesting character. His other business opponent is the cruel Butcher. The film not simply got the “Golden globe” but also a nomination for “Oscar” for the best male role.
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