This movie was a gruesome tale of lawlessness and the brutality of the gangs that dominated New York in the 1860's. The movie's main plot focused on the vengeance and the disputing between the gangs controlling the Bowery and Five Points area of lower Manhattan and concludes with the Civil War draft riots. The two major political parties, Tammany Hall, which was Democratic based and the Native Americans which made up the Know-Nothing Party, used gangs as enforcers for the loot of public funds and to obtain control of the city. .
The movie opens with the preparation and the march of each opposing party to engage in a gory feud. Combat breaks out and knives were slung at one another, slaughtering a majority of the crowd. Amsterdam Vallon, a young boy at the time, watches as his father, Priest Vallon is slain during the horrific fight for authority. The chief of theDead Rabbits? was dead. Amsterdam resentsBill the Butcher?, the man who killed his father but is taken away to live in a House of Refuge. After 16 years Amsterdam has returned to the Five Points to hunt down his father's killer, who has since become the merciless new authority of the area and despises the new immigrants. Each year, on the anniversary of Priest Vallon's death, the victory is celebrated. Amsterdam's plan is to murder his father's killer. While waiting for that time, Amsterdam becomes a part of the Butcher's inner group. He ends up getting closer to the Butcher than he means to, playing the part of the man's son he never had while hiding his true identity. Finally his identity is revealed and he is literally almost slaughtered to death by the Butcher. It takes awhile for him to regain his strength but when he does he revives the gang of the Dead Rabbits and wages war against the opposing side. That is when the 1863 Civil War Draft Riots break out in New York. .
Some of this film was hard to watch. There was a huge amount of violence and gory detail.