The movie begins in New York, in 1843, with a gang fight. Bill “the butcher” Cutting’s gang of “nativists” have challenged the “dead rabbits” (a gang of mostly Irish immigrants) to a fight to settle once and for all who is the most powerful gang in the area. After an intense battle the “nativists” win by killing the leader of the “dead rabbits”, also Amsterdam’s (the main character’s) father.
Amsterdam is then led into an orphanage where he grows to be a man, all while Bill Cutting runs the Five Points, and most of New York. The Five Points is a district of New York City and obviously the most corrupt. Crime is all to common, and sickness runs rampant in the area.
Although very underdeveloped, Amsterdam has sworn to revenge his father’s death and kill Bill “the Butcher.” When Amsterdam leaves he immediately sets his plan in motion.
He begins by getting on Cutting’s good side, and eventually becoming somewhat of an apprentice to the crime lord. During this time Amsterdam learns the ways of corruption. To keep above the law Bill Cutting becomes partners with William Tweed, arguably the most corrupt politician of all time. Bill gives Tweed the Irish immigrant vote, and Boss Tweed keeps Cutting “high and dry.”
Two subplots develop in the movie also.
First, a love story, between Amsterdam and Jenny Everdeane. A pickpocket by trade Jenny first steals Amsterdam’s necklace. Because the necklace has much sentimental value, he tracks her down and gets it back, he also gets the girl.
Second, the Draft Riots of 1863. The riots began because of the draft, instated because of the Civil War. The public was furious that you could buy your way out for 300 dollars. Also because of the corruption surrounding the draft. It was easy to get sucked into the draft if you were poor or underprivileged and it was easy to get out of the draft if you were wealthy (you could buy your way out for 300 dollars.)
In the end Amsterdam reinvents the “dead rabbits” and schedules a fight with the “nativists” once again. It just so happens that the day they schedule the fight is the day the Draft Riots begin. The Union Army marches on the city and the Union Navy shells the Five Points, the epicenter of the riots. The Union soldiers end up killing most of the gang members, but Amsterdam succeeds in revenging his father.
The movie has so many scenes (it’s two hours and forty-five minutes long) it’s hard to pick a favorite. If I had to it would be the ending scene though, where the Draft Riots are in full force and finally Amsterdam and Jenny visit the graves of Bill Cutting and Amsterdam’s father, followed by a time laps scene of the graveyard and the New York City skyline. The ending...