Gangs of New York ★★

A lot of things about this are really, really dumb, and some are very much marks of the time (of the film, not the period depicted), but also those indulgences -- which may have been cops to the studio, for I recall that this was a troubled passion project, and Weinstein was notorious for giving those an uphill climb -- feel like just another way for Scorsese to excuse the usual lurid, unhealthy obsession with violence. The story is inscrutable throughout the first act; or if it is coherent, it's impossible to care about it, but it does pull together in the midsection for some interesting elemental sparring between scowling DiCaprio and a Daniel Day-Lewis who looks like a mating of Borat and a generic c. 2004 indie rocker. Then, of course, all hell breaks loose again and the whole thing loses its thread, the obligatory love story never justifying its existence, least of all in the sex scene that begins with Cameron Diaz trying to literally bite a guy's face off. Again, fact-based or no, its approach to history is no more substantial that something I can imagine Zack Snyder pushing, fight scenes set to trip-hop and all, and at this point I've surrendered the idea that I'm ever going to be macho enough to understand this particular director.