I had read quite a lot of negative reviews about this movie: too long, too violent, too superficial and last but not least badly acted.
Well, for once the critics have a point. About half of the criticism seems justified. The movie is without any question too long. 2h30 to tell a story that could well have been explained in 15 minutes seems to be a tad too long: son avenges murder of father. But this is a pure Greek tragedy, so why not make it a bit longer. And Scorcese does take his time to show us New York in 1846. If we are to believe the movie, it was not a nice time. And I have a tendency to believe the events portrayed in this movie.
Criticism that the movie is too slow, is not entirely correct. I agree that some scenes could have been shortened, but the realistic scenery and the costumes are great to look at, and make the boring bits pass quickly.
Then there was the criticism that the film was too violent. Well, i'm sure the real thing was much more violent, but I can understand that this is not your average romantic story.
But the criticsim that "Gangs of New York" is superficial, is definitely NOT true. On the contrary, Scorsese puts a lot (too much?) information in the movie, and makes it sometimes difficult to follow.
And the acting? Excellent. Daniel Day-Lewis is brilliant as Bill the Butcher and Leonardo Di Caprio knows how to act (Anyone who has seen "what's eating Gilbert Grape" knows what I mean).
Conclusion : I have some mixed feelings, but the strength of the movie is (as is often the case with Scorcese) hidden in the details.
Having seen his father killed in a major gang fight in New York, young Amsterdam Vallon is spirited away for his own safety. Some years later, he returns to the scene of his father's death, the notorious Five Points district in New York. It's 1863 and lower Manhattan is run by gangs, the most powerful of which is the Natives, headed by Bill "The Butcher" Cutting. He believes that America should belong to native-born Americans and opposes the waves of immigrants, mostly Irish, entering the city. It's also the time of the Civil War and forced conscription leads to the worst riots in US history. Amid the violence and corruption, young Vallon tries to establish himself in the area and also seek revenge over his father's death