Headscratchers: Gangs of New York
Bill the Butcher kills Priest Vallon in front of his son, Amsterdam. 16 years later, he comes back to where it happened. Bill doesn't recognize him, but both Johnny and Walter "Monk" McGinn do?
- They lived with him in the Old Brewery. Bill likely only saw him once, on the day of the battle.
- Johnny actually made a deduction based on his actions that he had to be the priest's son, rather than outright recognizing him.
- Monk probably knew Vallon's son was named Amsterdam. Bill would have had no way of knowing that.
- I assumed that Amsterdam was a nickname that he picked up in Hellgate. Surely Bill would know the name of the son of his worst enemy.
- Monk suspected, and then smacked Amsterdam to see if he still had the childhood scar from 1846.
- There's enough to suggest Bill did know who Amsterdam was, but played along and acted like a father figure until Amsterdam tried to kill him in an dishonourable way.
- This movie was going great up until the point where Bill the Butcher captures Amsterdam and says something to the effect of , "I'll disfigure him. Eyes, ears, and nose all come off." We cut to a few days later with a shot of Amsterdam from behind as people gasp in horror while he walks through the street. We expect to see him hideously disfigured. Instead, we see the handsome, clean face of Leonardo Di Caprio as if he just stepped off the cover of Teen Beat... oh yeah, he kinda has a bit of a scar on his cheek... that's barely if at all noticeable. I was disappointed that Scorcese thought it was important for Leo to keep his good looks all the way through as opposed to telling a good story. It wouldn't have been so bad if his "disfigurement" wasn't played up so much. If Bill just flicked his blade at his cheek for a second without the monologue or anyone overreacting, it would've been fine.
- To quote Bill later in the movie, what in heaven's name are you talking about? Bill caught Amsterdam, and said "HE AIN'T EARNED A DEATH AT MY HANDS! No, he'll walk amongst you marked with shame!" Marked. Not disfigured, no mention of lopping off ears or eyes or nose, just a mark. You may have confused Gangs of New York with another movie.
- Bill the Butcher mentions doing something similar to McGloin, but he never actually does it. Maybe that's where the confusion stemmed.
- The above are correct, you're mixing up Bill's teasing McGloin with talking about beating and marking Amsterdam. And he's not really all that clean and sweet-looking at that point, his eyes are sunken, he's got the scar, and is generally a bit roughed-up... Bill mostly just scarred his cheek and beat the crap out of him. A few people were staring and whispering, but it was probably because they recognized him and didn't expect to see him again, let alone breaking the taboo against displaying signs of the Dead Rabbits. It sounds like you're letting some of the ranting on the front page influence your memories of a movie you haven't seen in awhile.
- Did anyone else actually find themselves rooting for Bill Cutting? I honestly couldn't get behind Dicaprio's character, the motive. The Butcher is Ax-Crazy, but he did have a sense of honor, and did take get his mooks to see Amsterdam off in the right direction, and made sure the Priest wasn't desecrated. Cutting then took Amsterdam under his wing all over again, and tried to teach him. He doesn't even speak ill of Priest Vallam, and still obviously respects him.
I just didn't feel the drive for revenge from Dicaprio, and he came off as more of a douche then Day-Lewis's character. I get the whole ending was about the Irish way of things [the riots, the vote rigging], compared to Cutting's sense of honor, but it was pretty weak.
- I get where you're coming from. I think that the writer did originally intend that the moral lines be blurred overall as Bill had his Pet the Dog moments, and Amsterdam did have a few strong claims to sympathy (revenge and his wish to help the immigrants.) But Leonardo DiCaprio just didn't show enough emotion as Amsterdam to make him all that sympathetic or interesting. He just didn't seem nearly as human as Bill did. Even if Bill did horrible things to people, he seemed much more emotional, and even deeper as a person. Sometimes, a good or bad actor can make all the difference, and this was one of those times. While I can't say I rooted for Bill, I certainly found him more enjoyable to watch than the main character despite his being a nasty piece of work.
- Glad you see where I'm coming from. Honestly, I found the whole revenge plot to be pretty forced. Amsterdam pretty much raised himself, some 20 years without dear old Dad. Cutting revealed to him in confidence (not knowing who he was) that it wasn't personal, and holds immense respect for his father. It really was just business. Faction A beating on Faction B. We know that Cutting did it honorably, gah, I'm rambling. But yeah. Bloodlines or not, I couldn't feel the alleged burning anger for revenge. And yeah, Day-Lewis is a huge joy to watch, over earlier Dicaprio. Thats a lot of it, plot aside. I said it to someone else, the film isn't enjoyable really for the plot, but just to watch DDL thoroughly enjoy his choice in career.
- I see where you're coming from as well with DiCaprio not conveying the lust for vengeance. But be fair about the revenge motivation: One, it was 20 years of misery (IIRC, Amsterdam said kept trying to escape—it's been a while since I've seen it). Two, it was still his father killed before his eyes as a kid: personal or not, just ask Batman how easy it is to "get over" that. Three, there might be some Values Dissonance as well, with that kind of thing being a bigger deal in the 1800's than today.
- I think it is oversimplification to take Bill's character at face value. He makes a big deal about honor but for all that talk he cowardly stabs Monk in the back like a sore loser after the guy won the election fair and square (so Tammany stuffed the ballots, but if Tammany had been on Bill's side as he had always been he would've done the same to Bill's candidate). He's a huge hypocrite in regards to having huge anti-immigrant prejudice despite having immigrant heritage himself. Maybe you could argue that he's aware of that but he still builds his entire gang out of that shtick and thus directly adds to the racial tensions in New York City that make everyone miserable and puts them in an easier position for him and Tammany to exploit. He explicitly states that he rules the city with fear. When you take away the flimsy "honor" thing and force of personality he's a brutish, racist tyrant allied with corrupt scumbags. I'll give you that he's more fun to watch than Amsterdam, but that hardly means he's more "sympathetic".
- Did anyone else find Jenny's siding with Amsterdam after the failed assassination attempt to be completely contrived and out of character just to give poor Leo a continuing love interest? Here's a girl who Bill rescued and cared for, kept from being forced into prostitution, and allowed to work the streets as a thief without paying him a dime in tribute. Bill gave Jenny practically everything a man in his position could give a woman, yet she doesn't feel betrayed by Amsterdam for turning on her benefactor who may have actually loved her.
- No. He raised her "like a father" until he decided he'd rather start screwing her, then he ditched her from even that once she developed a scar from having his child cut out of her. Being shocked that she'd be looking for greener pastures than Bill's "kindness" is pure Draco in Leather Pants.
- He didn't start until she gave him the go ahead, at least at first.