"You know how I stayed alive this long? All these years? Fear. The spectacle of fearsome acts... It's what preserves the order of things. Fear."
Bill The Butcher
It's no secret that while I am a huge fan of director Martin Scorsese, and while I do love movies like The Departed, Shutter Island and Casino, there is one movie that I really like above all those and think is extremely underrated. That movie being of course the historical epic that is Gangs of New York. It's not entirely overlooked, being that it was a hit at the box office and was up for it's share of academy awards, but when people discuss Scorsese, it does tend to get forgotten. And when people talk about good villains, Daniel Day-Lewis's portrayal of ruthless gangster Bill Cutting gets overlooked as well. Lewis really is one of those actors who, every time he is on screen, you forget that that is an actor and you accept that who you are seeing on screen is a real person, which makes the thought of a person like Bill The Butcher really scary. He's a small time gang leader in the more impoverished section of New York City during the Civil War era, when New York was the epicenter for immigration. This was a time when being an actual born american was something to be proud of (to say the least), and caused increased tensions in growing cities like New York. Bill is the leader of the gang called The Natives, a group of born americans with an utter hatred of immigrants hoping to become americans, most of all the irish. Bill has a complicated attitude towards the Irish. He acts as though he has an incurable contempt for them, but admits that he admires some of them. Even when he talks about one of his oldest enemies, he admits that in another life, they could have been friends had fate not chosen them to be sworn adversaries. It's almost one of those moments when you look at him and say "You know what? You're not so bad." but then you remember that his sworn enemy was Liam Neeson who he killed in the opening scene, and now you want to see him rot. What makes Bill such a cool bad guy is not only his hatred, but his rage. There is this great scene at the beginning of the film in which you just see this intensity in Bill's eyes as he cuts down opponent after opponent. It's not a sadistic look, as though he enjoys it, but it definitely gives the impression that he is clearly someone off his rocker. Later on in the film, he has this great monologue in which he explains how a person like him has been able to survive in this world. Again, you don't get the impression that he necessarily enjoys doing such horrible things to people, but he at least has this attitude of "It's either you or me". I believe Daniel Day-Lewis was up for an academy award that year, and it would be a shame if I was wrong about that because his performance really did help this very insane, but also very humane character. It's one of the few times when you actually, not feel bad for someone, but at least see where they are coming from and why they have such a warped view of people, society and the world at large