Gangs of New York

A film by Martin Scorcese, Gangs of New York (2002) follows Amsterdam Vallon as he attempts to avenge the death of his father by killing Bill Cutting, known as the Butcher. Vallon ingratiates himself with the gang of natives run by Cutting by hiding his identity from the gang leader. Vallon works to rebuild the Dead Rabbits, the gang formerly headed by his father, and he is eventually able to fight against and defeat Cutting in a battle which is eclipsed by the draft riot taking place in the city at the same time.

After reading pieces looking at the causes for the transition of immigrants into a life of crime, I think the return of Amsterdam Vallon to crime is a choice. Peter Lupsha discusses this transition in “American Values and Organized Crime: Suckers and Wiseguys” as a matter of choice, not fate; he says that immigrants see traditional American values as permission to engage in a twisted way to achieve the American dream. I think Amsterdam Vallon is like this perspective because he did not have to return to Five Points, he did not have to get back into crime, and he did not have to avenge his father. He chose to make revenge his goal, a decision which probably made the choice to return to crime feel inevitable, but it was a choice nonetheless.

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