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Public Enemies

Posted by Cantankerous Panda on August 23, 2009



Director: Michael Mann

Written by: Ronan Bennett, Michael Mann, Ann Biderman; book “Public Enemies: America’s Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933-34” by Bryan Burrough

Starring: Johnny Depp, Christian Bale, Marion Cotillard, Billy Crudup, Stephen Dorff, Jason Clarke, Stephen Graham, Emilie de Ravin, Giovanni Ribisi

Recommended? Yes, but with a disclaimer.

Disclaimer being: IT IS LONG. It is a long movie that sort of hops back and forth between short bursts of action and “near misses” with the FBI.

This film is based on the true story of John Dillinger, the famous and beloved bank robber. The people simply adored him, and because of this, he was able to hide in their midst. J. Edgar Hoover HATED Dillinger and became so obsessed with catching him that, legend has it, he had a whole “shrine” of Dillinger items that he kept after Dillinger’s death, basically as trophies. There’s your background info.

As for how the film progressed, I will admit one thing: it’s not fast-paced. At all. The action is really wonderfully realistic (I say this as if I’ve seen real gunfights before) and it’s fun, but the entire film less action and more build-up to the inevitable fate of Dillinger, or even just build-up to each individual robbery/predicament in which Dillinger finds himself. It’s enjoyable to watch, certainly, but it’s not the greatest film of the year.

What carries the film is the performances, but only one of the two leads is compelling. Johnny Depp can do no wrong, it seems, and his portrayal of Dillinger is no exception. He’s every bit the cocky (and cocksure) public enemy, and you cannot help but love the man. Depp is the perfect actor to cast in a bad guy role where the audience has to want the bad guy to win. As for Christian Bale, well, I could have done without him. Maybe I’m missing something about Bale, but I haven’t really enjoyed a performance from him since American Psycho. There was nothing particularly interesting about his character, which may be because the real-life FBI Agent Purvis was lacking, the script was lacking, or Bale was simply lacking. I didn’t quite buy his Americaness in this film, either, which bugged me since he is playing a decent role in a chunk of American history. I found his entire performance to be fairly bland, and I didn’t even care when he stood up to Hoover. Speaking of Hoover, Billy Crudup was nearly unrecognizable with his clothes on and without the blue skintone. I don’t believe that he looked a lot like Hoover, but he definitely had the creepy, dodgy, man with too much power act down to a tee, and I bought the role. For the duration of the film, Crudup absolutely WAS J. Edgar Hoover, and I didn’t like him one bit (which, of course, is the point).

As for the female roles, Marion Cotillard was terribly likeable and adorable as Dillinger’s girlfriend Billie. She had a very classic look to her, as well, which made me quite happy. She reminded me very much of the actresses of the golden era of Hollywood, and that fit very nicely into the timeframe of the film. She was equally sweet and sexy, innocent and resourceful, susceptible and strong. I thought she was rather delightful. Emilie de Ravin played Anna, better known as “The Lady in Red”, and I didn’t really find her performance to be particularly noteworthy. That might be due the fact that her role wasn’t really major. She wasn’t bad, but I just don’t think there’s much to say about her. I mention her because she’s the second female lead, which doesn’t say much in a movie that revolves around men and their guns.

Overall, it’s a movie you can enjoy if you don’t mind the pace, but don’t expect it to be the most amazing gangster movie you’ve ever seen. It’s also a fun film for Johnny Depp fans of all sorts, and his performance is awesome, as per usual. I recommend this film to serious film-goers who can handle a bit of a slow-paced film mixed with some enjoyable shoot-outs.


4 Responses to “Public Enemies”

  1. Devi said

    Haven’t seen it yet, but Depp is definitely in his element when you need him to be rakish and charming, so it’s easy to believe good things about the film.

  2. Serryl said

    Well this movie wasn’t on my radar at all, but I do love Johnny Depp (especially as a villain). I might get it fromt he library sometime. Thanks for the review.

  3. KINETIC said

    YAY REVIEW! ok ! lol ubt ya bale was boring! lol xD i go talk yer other reviews now lol

  4. […] his subconscious and allowing a very violent representation of his wife, Mal (Marion Cottilard of Public Enemies, Nine, Big Fish), into the shared […]

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