July 21, 2003 12:00 PM

Life in the big city can be gritty, no matter what the century. That’s the lesson learned from a trio of new releases, all of which focus on urban dwellers who resort to crime as a way up the ladder, or to keep from falling off.

Gangs of New York (Miramax, $29.99) Downtown Manhattan in the Civil War era is a seething cauldron of battling ethnic groups. There a young Irishman (Leonardo DiCaprio) plots revenge against the American-born crime boss (Daniel Day-Lewis) who killed his father. Sprawling and ambitious, Gangs fails to fully flesh out its characters, though some scenes rank with director Martin Scorsese’s best.

Extras: Illuminating audio commentary by Scorsese—delivered in his rat-a-tat-tat rasp—in which he dishes up heaping helpings of history and cites his influences for specific scenes, plus a tour of the set and a documentary on New York City gangs of the mid-1800s. Biggest bummer: No deleted scenes. (R)

The Corner (HBO, $39.98) Based on a nonfiction book, this six-hour Emmy-winning HBO drama series from 2000 movingly depicts the ravages wrought by drugs on members of an African-American family in Baltimore. T.K. Carter stars. Extras: None. (Not rated)

Kingpin (NBC, $29.99)

This six-episode series about a Stanford-educated Mexican-American drug lord (Yancey Arias) was to be NBC’s answer last season to The Sopranos. Derivative of both the HBO series and The Godfather, it lacks—how do you put it?—bada-bing.Extras: Cast interviews. (Not rated)

NBC hoped to make Arias a Kingpin.

You May Like