ChildCare Action Project (CAP): Christian Analysis of American Culture


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Entertainment Media Analysis Report
A service to His little ones (which includes at-home teens) through you, their parents and grandparents, in His name by His Word

Gangs of New York (2002), R
Analysis Date: January 10, 2003
CAP Score: 13
CAP Influence Density: 1.82

MinMax: -41

Gangs of New York (2002) CAP Mini-thermometers

ALERT: To fully understand this report you should first visit the topics suggested by the CAP Site Map (Table of Contents). Further, if you do not want the plot, ending, or "secrets" of a movie spoiled for you, skip the Summary/Commentary. In any case, be sure to visit the Findings/Scoring section -- it is completely objective to His Word and is the heart of the CAP Entertainment Media Analysis Model applied to this movie.

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If Scriptural references appear, the full text appears at the end of the Summary / Commentary likely using a mix of KJV and NIV.

GANGS OF NEW YORK (R) -- Is it justice or revenge?

Production: Cappa Production, Initial Entertainment Group, Miramax Films
Distribution: Miramax Films
Director(s): Martin Scorsese
Producer(s): Gerry Robert Byrne, Laura Fattori, Alberto Grimaldi, Maurizio Grimaldi, Michael Hausman, Michael Jackman, Graham King, Michael Ovitz, Joseph P. Reidy, Rick Schwartz, Colin Vaines, Bob Weinstein, Harvey Weinstein, Rick Yorn, Martin Scorsese
Written by/Screenplay: Jay Cocks (story, screenplay), Steven Zaillian and Kenneth Lonergan (screenplay)
Cinematography/Camera: Michael Ballhaus
Music: Bono ("The Hands That Built America"), Peter Gabriel, Howard Shore ("Brooklyn Heights")
Film Editing: Thelma Schoonmaker
Casting: Ellen Lewis
Production Design: Dante Ferretti
Art Direction: Alessandro Alberti, Maria-Teresa Barbasso, Dimitri Capuani, Robert Guerra, Stefano Maria Ortolani, Nazzareno Piana

In 1846 New York City, young Irish immigrant Amsterdam Vallon (later played by Leonardo DiCaprio, the quintessential protagonist of nudity in PG-13, i.e., Titanic of 1997) witnessed the death of his Priest father (Liam Neeson) at the hands of William Cutting a.k.a "Bill the Butcher" (Daniel Day-Lewis), the ruling mob boss of New York's Five Points in lower Manhattan. The time was supposedly of gang rule in the slums of New York. Not being an historian I cannot confirm or deny the accuracy of this movie, but you can bet a lot of people will walk away from this movie with some new tales of "how it really happened."

Cutting's "Nativists" hated all the immigrants and blacks with a lethal passion. Gang warfare policed the masses. Gang warfare was even seen between firefighter companies and within the police department. In a "final battle" (of 1846 anyway) between the Nativists and the Irish immigrants, Amsterdam's father, leader of the Irish faction, along with dozens of other men fell in battle - brutally, graphically.

Sixteen years later, Amsterdam was released from the home (prison) for orphaned children that raised him. Amsterdam's only focus was to avenge his father's death [Rom. 12:19]. Bill the Butcher was still in power but for him the images in his memory of the boy Amsterdam did not match the image of the adult Amsterdam. To Cutting, Amsterdam was no more than another man trying to find a way for himself. The friction between the Irish immigrants and the "Nativists" was still seething but several of the Irish warriors in the battle between the immigrants and the Nativists had, over the years, become "productive citizens" under the thumb of Bill the Butcher. And had become just like him [Prov. 16:29].

The film is freckled with many aspects of our history circa our Civil War, including what was depicted as anti-draft riots with military aggression and ordnance to control them and military officers coming to New York to recruit men right off the streets. But gang wars, crime boss rule, the constant threat of gang wars and criminal control of the populace ruled the ominous feature of this movie. The prime doctrine of organization, as told by the movie, was that fear is the single element that establishes and preserves order. Maybe that accuses us of having a need to defy authority and control: of having a lust for freedom from accountability, freedom from authority and freedom from consequences. Simon Peter, Apostle to Jesus, tells us well about these matters in 2 Pet. 2:10 - 13.

The film is spotted with new age counterfeitings of the Scriptures, faith in God and obedience to His Word. Mockery of God, faith and the Scriptures tainted the film as far from the truth. Attempts to excuse evil doings as done "in His name." were used. Little do many know the Crusades were truly defense against tyrannic aggression and rescue of people from tyranny. If your homes and freedom were threatened, you'd fight back, too. The writers capitalized on the popular cry of the secularists that claims religion is responsible for more deaths than anything else. As far as I am concerned people can say what they want about "religion." I am not a "religious" man. I am Christian. And each instance of mockery in the movie was so presented as to appear accurate and truthful on the surface to the unaware and the uninformed: to the unarmed who are ignorant of the Truth in the Word and Faith through it. Much of the "religious" content seemed to be written from an unbeliever's perspective, trying to ridicule the believers, mixing the Truth with non-Truth depending on the Truth to lead acceptance of the non-Truth.

After finally working his way into the Nativist organization, Amsterdam becomes a pet of Cutting. Indeed Cutting, not knowing this young man he takes into his confidence is the son of "the only man [Cutting] ever killed worth remembering", makes Amsterdam a man of significant importance within the Nativist organization. This changed Amsterdam's original focus ... a little. Many maneuvers happen that tend to solidify Amsterdam's relationship with Cutting. One of the many maneuvers is Jenny Everdeane (Cameron Diaz). Jenny is Cutting's "is there anyone in New York you haven't slept with?" ex-fiance. But none of the camaraderie Amsterdam develops with Cutting completely erases Amsterdam's visions of Cutting cutting Amsterdam's father. And in 1863, Cutting finally dies at the hands of Amsterdam. Is it justice or revenge? If you need help with that question, take it to the Cross. Remember that Jesus told us that he who is without sin may cast the first stone [John 8:7].

There is, of course, a great deal more to this 163 minute movie. But giving you more than a briefing of it is beyond the purpose of this service. We tell mom/dad the truth about the content of movies so they can make an informed decision whether it is fit for their kids and/or themselves. To do that, providing you with only a brief and sometimes subjective summary in commentary format is grossly inadequate. The "meat" of this service follows in the completely objective Findings/Scoring section. We tell you what is there. You decide whether it is fit or not. We are serving His little ones (which includes at-home teens) through you, their parents and grandparents in His name by His Word.


If needed to focus or fortify, applicable text is underlined or bracketed [ ]. If you wish to have full context available, the Blue Letter Bible is a convenient source. If you use the Blue Letter Bible, a new window will open. Close it to return here or use "Window" in your browser's menu bar to alternate between the CAP page and the Blue Letter Bible page.

  • Rom. 12:19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.
  • Prov. 16:29 A violent man enticeth his neighbour, and leadeth him into the way that is not good.
  • 2 Pet. 2:10 - 13. But chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government [those who follow the corrupt desire of the sinful nature and despise authority]. Presumptuous are they, selfwilled [and proud of it], they are not afraid to speak evil of [heavenly] dignities. 11 Whereas angels, which are greater in power and might, bring not railing {slanderous] accusation against them before the Lord. 12 But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of [blaspheme] the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption; And shall receive the reward of unrighteousness [if unsaved], as they that count it pleasure to riot in the day time [challenge order and righteousness]. 13 Spots they are and blemishes, sporting themselves with their own deceivings [telling and teaching of disobedience and arrogant ways with smooth words and slick talk] while they feast with you;
  • John 8:7 So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. [Jesus was speaking to the men who had, rightfully by the law of the time, found the prostitute guilty since she had been caught in the sins of sexual immorality and adultery. Note that Jesus was not arguing with the law or the judgment. The prostitute was inarguably guilty of prostitution just as Cutting (if the movie were real life) was inarguably guilty of murder. Jesus knew that the guilty could yet ask forgiveness but if the guilty one were executed s/he would have no opportunity to ask forgiveness. It is God's wish that none should perish in his/her sin [2 Pet. 3:9]. So, though Cutting was, using a little pun, as guilty as sin for murdering Amsterdam's father, did Amsterdam have the right to avenge his father's death with more death? Jesus put into proper perspective our right to execute a judgment of death by making us realize the guilty may each yet be saved from their sins through His forgiveness and a treasure of greatness preserved (another soul in Heaven) which would otherwise be lost. Further note in a tangent perspective that Jesus did NOT excuse the sin of prostitution (nor will He "excuse" murder or any other sin). Jesus will forgive us our sins but He will NOT excuse even one. He even reminded the prostitute of the sin of prostitution when he told her to go and sin no more. Prostitution was and is just as sinful after Jesus forgave the prostitute of it as it was before He forgave her of it. So, I ask again. Was Cutting's death at the hands of Amsterdam justice or revenge?
  • 2 Pet. 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

    ***Selected Scriptures of Armour against the influence of the entertainment industry***
  • Ps. 12:8 The wicked freely strut about [e.g., create progressively vile/offensive entertainment with impunity and no consequences to younger and younger audiences every year] when what is vile is honored among men [when enough people continue to defend it, embrace it, pay for it, enjoy it, want it]. [I call attention to Ps. 12:8 to warn of the creeping desensitizing power of "entertainment."]
  • 1 Cor. 15:33 (KJV) Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners. (NIV) Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character.
  • Jude 4 For certain men* whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change [warp, distort, falsely represent] the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord. [*men: anthropos {anth'-ro-pos}, generic, a human being, whether male or female]
  • Matt. 25:40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto [or for] one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto [or for] me.
  • Luke 17:2 It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin. [cause by teaching or example]
  • Ps. 119:133 Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me.
  • John 14:15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.
  • 1 Thess. 5:22 Abstain from all appearance of evil.


    As always, it is best to refer to the Findings/Scoring section -- the heart of the CAP analysis model -- for the most complete assessment possible of this movie.


    Gangs of New York (2002) CAP Thermometers

    Wanton Violence/Crime (W):
  • abuse of women
  • long sequence of very graphic bloody battle, repeatedly
  • scenes of many bloody bodies, repeatedly
  • assault, repeatedly
  • fighting, repeatedly
  • police corruption
  • theft, repeatedly
  • gambling, repeatedly
  • sadism, repeatedly
  • knife stab
  • extortion, repeatedly
  • knife threat, repeatedly, once to repel justice, some to the throat
  • dead body
  • teaching to kill with a knife
  • gunfire injury, some graphic, repeatedly
  • death by gunfire
  • story of gruesome self mutilation
  • knife throwing display as a slow, torturous threat
  • knife throwing injury
  • attempted knife murder, repeatedly, once exceptionally graphic
  • sadistic brutality
  • "I gotta kill you"
  • abduction
  • "Kill me! Please!"
  • coercion in voting
  • threats to kill
  • images of graphic dead, repeatedly
  • arson, repeatedly
  • massive vandalism
  • self mutilation
  • mob brutalization
  • racial/nationality abuse, repeatedly
  • mob mayhem, repeatedly
  • dozens of gunfire deaths
  • uncountable deaths by military cannon fire
  • death by blade
  • exceptionally graphic gunfire deaths, repeatedly
  • beating murder
  • gore, repeatedly

    Impudence/Hate (I)(1):
  • 15 uses of the three/four letter word vocabulary
  • five uses of the most foul of the foul words
  • racial/nationality hatred, repeatedly
  • selling imprisoned women for sex

    Sex/Homosexuality (S):
  • prostitution, repeatedly
  • transvestism, repeatedly
  • using sex appeal to facilitate theft
  • excessive breast exposure
  • making out
  • stripping for sex
  • chest licking
  • nudity, full and partial, female, multiple groupings, repeatedly
  • inappropriate touch
  • intercourse while clothed
  • sex talk
  • man and woman in bed together, ostensibly after intercourse
  • lesbianism
  • ghosting of female anatomy through clothing, repeatedly
  • statue nudity

    Drugs/Alcohol (D):
  • drinking, repeatedly
  • drunkenness, repeatedly
  • smoking, repeatedly
  • bars

    Offense to God (O)(2):
  • selling dead body
  • mockery of God, repeatedly
  • "Another war in His name"
  • mockery of the Scriptures, repeatedly
  • mockery of prayer
  • mockery of faith

    Murder/Suicide (M)(3):
  • murder by gunfire, repeatedly, once exceptionally graphic
  • murder by hanging, repeatedly
  • murder by knife, repeatedly, some exceptionally graphic

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    NOTE: While the Summary/Commentary section of these reports is precisely that -- a summary in commentary format which can be and sometimes is subjective, the actual CAP Analysis Model (the Findings/Scoring section) makes no scoring allowances for trumped-up "messages" to excuse, for manufacture of justification for, or camouflaging of ignominious content or aberrant behavior or imagery with "redeeming" programming. Disguising sinful behavior in a theme/plot does not excuse the sinful behavior of either the one who is drawing pleasure or example of behavior or thought from the sinful display or of the practitioners demonstrating the sinful behavior. We make no attempt to quantify the "artistic" or "entertainment" value of a movie -- whether a movie has any positive value or "entertainment" value is up to mom/dad. The CAP analysis model is the only known set of tools available to parents and grandparents which give *them* the control they need, bypassing the opinion-based assessment of movies by others and defeating the deceit of those who would say anything to convince their parents otherwise. The model is completely objective to His Word. Our investigation standards are founded in the teachings and expectations of Jesus Christ. If a sinful behavior is portrayed, it is called sinful whether Hollywood tries to make it otherwise. That the sinful behavior is "justified" by some manufactured conditions does not soften nor erase the price of sin. Whether there is application of fantasy "justification" or "redemption" is up to mom/dad.

    "There are some in the entertainment industry who maintain that 1) violent programming is harmless because no studies exist that prove a connection between violent entertainment and aggressive behavior in children, and 2) young people know that television, movies, and video games are simply fantasy. Unfortunately, they are wrong on both accounts." And "Viewing violence may lead to real life violence." I applaud these associations for fortifying 1 Cor. 15:33. Read the rest of the story. From our more than eight years of study, I contend that other aberrant behaviors, attitudes, and expressions can be inserted in place of "violence" in that statement. Our Director - Child Psychology Support, a licensed psychologist and certified school psychologist concurs. For example, "Viewing arrogance against fair authority may lead to your kids defying you in real life." Or "Viewing sex may lead to sex in real life." Likewise and especially with impudence, hate and foul language. I further contend that any positive behavior can be inserted in place of "violence" with the same chance or likelihood of being a behavior template for the observer; of being incorporated into the behavior mechanics and/or coping skills of the observer. In choosing your entertainment, please consider carefully the "rest of the story" and our findings.

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    (1) As noted in CAP Special Report-001, "Investigation Area and Scoring Trend," of the six CAP Investigation Areas, Impudence/Hate was the strongest presence in all four movie classifications. It has a strong revelation about the entertainment media.

    (2) The use of the three/four letter word vocabulary without God's name in vain is incorporated into the Impudence/Hate Investigation Area. The use of God's name with or without the four letter expletive is incorporated into the Offense to God Investigation Area. There is no duplication.

    (3) Only portrayal of successful murder or suicide are incorporated into Murder/Suicide. Portrayal of attempts to commit murder or suicide and deaths by police action or war are incorporated into Wanton Violence/Crime.

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