10. Gangs Of New York – Royal Rumble
It could be argued that Gangs of New York, while kick-starting a new collaboration phase for Scorsese (out with De Niro, in with DiCaprio), also happens to be the weakest of their collaborations. Gangs has plenty of ambition, plenty of scope and (in Daniel Day-Lewis) a towering central performance, but it is also a bit hit and miss on the performances side (Cameron Diaz is not terrible, but she is far from great) and lacking the focus that is required for such a sprawling saga. Having said that, we are addressing top scenes, not top films and so this is in, potentially for a number of sequences, but specifically here for the opening battle of the Five Points, with the immigrant Irish squaring off against the “native-born” Americans.
It is, at times, brutal and unflinching, the bats, spikes, claws and blades doing their monstrous work on all and sundry and although the film has only just begun, the preparations of Liam Neeson’s Vallon and the grand-standing speech of Day-Lewis’s Bill the Butcher give context and resonance so that we care and so that it is all deemed to matter. Scorsese manages to capture and convey the chaos and indiscriminate carnage, without the scene losing coherence, something that many a supposedly accomplished action director would do well to consider.
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