Martin Scorsese directs Leonardo DiCaprio, Daniel Day-Lewis and Cameron Diaz in this sprawling epic and Marty’s longheld dream project set around the tribes of criminals and influencers in early America.
At times brilliant, other times frustratingly simple – much like Cameron’s Titanic; this is a big budget monster that you admire as often as you enjoy, are stunned by when you aren’t being stupefied by it all. The much discussed longer cut has never come to light so you can see great character actors weaving around in the background like glorified extras and entire sequences that feel more like trailers for their own feature length movie rather than complete set pieces as intended. Some lines of dialogue literally fadeaway mid sentence, no doubt in an attempt by Scorsese to brutally edit it down to Miramax’s contracted length. Another Titanic-a-like flaw is Leo has not yet being matured into the fine leading man he eventually became, meaning he is carrying a big fucking movie on narrow, young shoulders. There’s moments where he looks as swamped as we are by the shuddering narrative especially when being blasted off screen by Day-Lewis’ Bill the Butcher; one part Godfather, one part psycho ringmaster, three parts Bobby DeNiro in Cape Fear. Still the opening act feels almost like some horrific fantasy sci-fi, the finale has the sweep and guts to end on a high, while the middle two hours grab away at any issue or genre they can lay their scrabbling hands on. The effect is like channel surfing through some terrifying 1800’s public access TV shows rather than watching a consistent film. If you get lost, the set design and costumes dazzle the eyes with outlandish accuracy. A big rotten buffet of masterful movie making, but you would struggle to call it perfect.