I have lots of things to say about this movie, which (besides having great acting from Daniel Day-Lewis and Jim Broadbent) puts you in mid-nineteenth-century New York so convincingly you can practically smell the pigs wandering the streets in Five Points, but what’s relevant to Languagehat is, of course, the language. Which is magnificent. Much of the script (especially Day-Lewis’s part) was obviously written with a deep love for the period’s mix of high and low, exemplified by the line “I don’t give a tuppenny fuck for your moral conundrums!” And the attention paid to detail can be heard in the way a policeman discussing problems at various locations during the Draft Riots refers to “Broad Way”; you can hear the two words, not ostentatiously but clearly. For that sort of thing I am willing to forgive some of the historical lapses (though not the absurd shelling of the city at the climax of the riots, obviously inserted to provide more bang for the multimillion bucks). I must warn potential viewers, though, that this is an extremely violent movie; anyone made queasy by multiple shootings, stabbings, hatchetings, brainings, and the like should avoid it (or at least wait for the video, where you can fast-forward through the gore).


  1. You wouldn’t know how accurate Day-Lewis’s accent was, would you? Was that just creative license?

  2. I wouldn’t, and I wondered myself, but it was so effective I’m willing to accept it as artistic license even if it turns out to be anachronistic. Anybody out there know about mid-XIX Noo Yawkese?

  3. On a side note, here’s an interesting article on the movie that Scorcese intended, had Harvey Weinstein not meddled.

  4. Thanks, Nelson — that’s a great article, and I’m about to send it to my movie-fanatic brothers!

  5. The fight between Weinstein and Scorcese for the making of that movie is becoming the stuff of legend. Here is another story on the subject:,6903,860276,00.html.

    I badly want to lay my hands on the Auletta article. Everyone seems to have read it!

  6. I thought I’d (very belatedly) provide a link to the New Yorker Auletta article, but alas, this is all that’s available, and the Wayback Machine doesn’t have an archived version.

Speak Your Mind