Gangs of New York appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Though not flawless, this became a satisfying presentation.
Sharpness looked good overall. Some stylized softness appeared at times, but most of the image displayed nice delineation and accuracy.
I saw no signs of jagged edges or shimmering. In addition, print flaws remained absent, and I witnessed no edge haloes.
In terms of palette, Gangs opted for a mix of teal and orange/amber. These worked fine for the story and showed nice clarity and delineation.
Black levels also came across as dense and tight, while shadows were clean and accurately delineated. This wasn’t quite an “A”-level image, but it satisfied.
As a character-driven drama, the film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundfield often remained pretty subdued, and much of the time the track simply bolstered events with general atmosphere. Music presented good imaging, and the track created a nice feeling of environment.
When pushed, however, it became more involving, and the best parts popped up during the film’s climactic riot sequence, especially when the military became involved.
In addition to gunfire, the track presented excellent movement of cannon blasts. The surrounds strongly entered the picture here and during other set pieces, and effects such as the soaring cannonballs worked well.
Audio quality worked well, as speech sounded natural and distinct. I noticed no issues related to the lines, and effects also failed to present any concerns.
Those elements appeared accurate and tight, and they also featured pretty solid bass response when appropriate. The cannon blasts provided the film’s sonic highlights, but other parts of the film also woke up my subwoofer in a satisfying way.
The score seemed nicely clear and robust as well. Ultimately, the audio of Gangs of New York was pretty good.
How did the Blu-ray compare to the DVD from 2003? The lossless audio appeared more robust and more accurate, as it lost some of the odd “distant” qualities of the DVD’s material.
In addition, visuals demonstrated an obvious uptick, as the Blu-ray was better defined, cleaner and smoother. This turned into a substantial upgrade over its DVD predecessor.
Note that this disc represents the second Blu-ray iteration of Gangs. This version came out in 2008 whereas this version arrived in 2010.
I never saw the 2008 disc but I know it received brutal criticism for its transfer, as apparently that Blu-ray came plagued with rampant edge haloes, digital noise reduction and other problems. Perversely, the 2008 release earned such awful reviews that I kind of wish I’d seen it!
The Blu-ray reproduces most of the DVD’s extras, and we begin with an audio commentary from director Martin Scorsese. Though it shows no obvious edits, this track also doesn’t sound like a running affair, as it appears to come from an interview.
The track definitely fails to become screen-specific, as I recall no instances during which Scorsese actually remarks directly upon the action. Nonetheless, the director offers a very good chat that relates to the film.
Scorsese mostly covers the history behind the movie as he tells us about the times and facts of the era. In addition, we learn about the film’s long path to the screen, casting, the visual style, music, sets, costumes and other production elements.
Scorsese even relates an interesting tale about how he originally wanted the Clash to do the music back when he initiated the project in the Seventies. Despite a few moderate empty spaces, this commentary provides a solid examination of the flick.
After this we find a series of video programs. The nine-minute, seven-second Set Design featurette presents remarks from production designer Dante Ferretti, Scorsese, cinematographer Michael Ballhaus, second unit director Vic Armstrong, and actors Daniel Day-Lewis, Cameron Diaz, Jim Broadbent, Leonardo DiCaprio, Gary Lewis, Liam Neeson, John C. Reilly, and Brendan Gleeson.
A pretty basic program, Ferretti gives us a little decent information about the creation of the film’s sets and its look, but too much of it comes across as fluffy. We hear many comments from the participants about how great the sets were but not much depth.
A companion piece, Exploring the Sets of Gangs of New York lasts 22 minutes, 31 seconds, and we watch Scorsese and Ferretti as they stroll through the sets.
They offer comments about the work, the movie, and the factual basis behind them. We learn lots of nice details about the sets and get a fine look at them in this interesting little program.
The eight-minute, 12-second Costume Design resembles “Set Design” in its construction. Here we find remarks from Scorsese, costume designer Sandy Powell, wardrobe supervisor Paolo Stefano Scalabrino, and actors Liam Neeson, Day-Lewis, and Diaz.
They cover the historical details and liberties as well as other considerations involved with the costumes. “Costume” seems much more compelling than “Set”, as it includes substantially greater levels of actual information and doesn’t just praise the designers’ work.
Next we find a History of the Five Points. This 13-minute, 33-second program features statements from Scorsese, author/historical advisor Luc Sante, and actors DiCaprio, Neeson, and Broadbent.
Sante dominates the piece as he leads us through a quick glimpse at the facts behind the film. Some of this appears elsewhere, but we get some new information, and “History” feels like a tight and useful piece as a whole.
For more material in the same vein, we go to the Five Points Study Guide. The “Luc Sante Introduction” gives us a very good text overview of the historical information.
The “Five Points Vocabulary” provides definitions for terms heard in the movie. Both combined help flesh out their subjects neatly.
The disc also offers a Discovery Channel special called Uncovering the Real Gangs of New York. This 35-minute, 14-second program includes interviews with Kenneth T. Jackson of the New York Historical Society, archaeologist Rebecca Yamin, Ruth Abram of the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, anthropologist Brian Ferguson, authors Luc Sante, Tyler Anbinder and Peter Quinn, actors Daniel Day-Lewis, Cameron Diaz, and Liam Neeson, and director Scorsese.
Though the appearance of the film folk made me worry that “Uncovering” would offer little more than a puffy promotional piece, instead it gives us a nice examination of the facts behind the movie. The participants trace the history of pretty much everything we see in the flick.
There’s information about real-life counterparts to characters as well as notes about the evolution of the Five Points, the various riots and other legal issues, and many other topics.
This program moves briskly as it concisely relates the material. It’s a fine piece that I wish I’d watched before I saw the movie, as knowing these details enhances the film.
Lastly, we get the music video for U2’s “The Hands That Built America”. Not identical to the clip that appears on the band’s The Best Of 1990-2000, this one uses the same footage of the band in the studio, but tints it to offer an old-timey look and intercuts it with movie footage.
The Best Of edition isn’t very good, but this one’s even worse. I adore U2, but this is a cheesy video.
The disc opens with ads for Everybody’s Fine and Surrogates. We also find two trailers for Gangs.
Although Gangs of New York won’t go down as Martin Scorsese’s worst film, it also falls far from the top of his pile. The movie presents a handful of enthralling sequences but suffers from a weak script, a messy third act, and a mix of other problems that undercut its strengths. The Blu-ray brings very good picture and audio along with a nice array of bonus materials. Though not a great Scorsese film, Gangs comes with enough positives to merit a look.
To rate this film, visit the original review of GANGS OF NEW YORK