Subscribe to Christianity Today

Eric Metaxas

A Bloody Shame

Gangs of New York and the apotheosis of Martin Scorsese

Once upon a time I was a huge Martin Scorsese fan. But now I sometimes think he's a movie director instead of a writer simply because it's hard to get words on a page to actually drip blood. The impression is not completely without basis. His macabre early short, The Big Shave (1967), features a man, in closeup, shaving himself into an unwatchably bloody mess—and that's all, folks. His breakout feature, Mean Streets (1973), ends with the young Robert De Niro spurting blood from his neck—shot at close range by Scorsese himself (with pistol, not camera) in a brief, murderous cameo. Taxi Driver (1976) was described by New York Times critic Frank Rich as containing a "hurricane of blood," and that was after Scorsese toned it down so the film could avoid an X rating. In Raging Bull (1980) the blood is practically fetishized, with endless slo-mo shots of it pumping and squirting from boxers' opened eyebrows and crushed noses, as well as one slo-mo sequence of De Niro's body being laved with a bloody sponge between rounds. In Goodfellas (1990) the venerable bloodline is continued: in one scene Ray Liotta brutally pistolwhips his girlfriend's neighbor in his driveway, then hands the bloody gun to his girlfriend, whose nostrils immediately flare with love.

What Casino (1995) lacks in actual bloodflow is generously compensated for in other hideous violence: an uncooperative man's head is put in a vise and slowly and graphically cracked. People in my theater gagged. And for that bounce in your step as you leave the theater, Scorsese ended the movie with a sadistically drawn-out scene in which two luckless gents are hit out of the park that was their sorry life with baseball bats. If you wanted to know what torture-death by aluminum bat was like, Casino will give you an excellent idea, if you can keep your eyes open. Actually the grim soundtrack alone would do the trick. I think the real thing might be less gruesome.

Until Casino I was still a big Scorsese fan, but the fathomless ...

To continue reading

- or -
Free CT Books Newsletter. Sign up today!
Most ReadMost Shared

Seminary/Grad SchoolsCollege Guide