Public Enemies Reviews
Public Enemies- 70%, B
After a very nice prison breakout scene, director Mann decides to go all shaky hand cam on us - totally ruining some otherwise very nice shots at the "safe house". Mann later, thank goodness, abandons the shaky cam, but this is just a precursor for several little things that perhaps mean little in and of themselves, but taken cumulatively, drag the film down. Notice how Depp, as Dillinger, a man on the run for most of the film, still manages to always have a fresh set of fancy clothes and even more telling, sunglasses.
This is especially noticable after he just escapes with his life after the ambush that kills Baby Face Nelson.
Also running contrary are the themes of his professed love for Billy (a nice performance by Marion Cotillard) and the extended gunfight scenes. In my opinion, all of the bank heists blend into a collage of black suits, marble floors and tommy guns blazing - pretty, but somehow lacking emotional punch.
I enjoyed the pop psychology of Dillinger/Depp repeatedly saying that he won't abandon those close to him; a knee jerk reaction to his mother leaving him to an abusive father (although I could have done without the repeated scenes of Depp looking at the pocket watch with the locket picture of his mother).
The screenplay for this film is steady, alowing depth to not only Dillinger, but his protagonist Melvin Purvis (a steely portrayal by Christian Bale), who is put under pressure by J.Edgar Hoover to bring criminals to justice, regardless of the cost (to both the public and his own soul).
Yes, all the elements were there to make a memorable film, but somehow I started counting bullets - never a good sign in any film. The extended scene where the G-men surround the lodge where an injured Dillinger is holed up along with several of Nelson's henchmen has enough flying lead to build a battleship - which of course makes you wonder where they got all them there bullets. Very pretty to watch, but not very plausable or heartpounding - I found myself thinking back to other gangster films and comparing...Capone - yeah, nice scenes of contrasting grit and grandeur - Goodfellas - lacks the political maneuvering... but the point is, why should I have been thinking about this in the middle of a gunfight? Again, opposites struck me - the wonderfully cool way that the G-Men's shotgun blasts tore the plaster off the lath and plaster walls is so very real; while the bazillian bullets play false.
The film also had an interesting attempt at creating backroom backstabbing, where Dillinger is told by the organized mob that his bank robbing is bad for legitimate, ill-legitimate business (like bookmaking). It is suggested that the Chicago mob turns on Dillinger, but that is not properly delved into, at least from where I was watching.
In all, a film worth the watch, but fails at it's attempt at something truly memorable.
America has always had, if not an outright love affair with criminals, at least a great interest in them, especially those from the 1930s. Dillinger, Nelson, Pretty Boy Floyd and Bonnie and Clyde, all inspired the public with seedy tales of violence and crime, anarchy in the midst of oppression. Strangely though, it's not Dillinger who caught my interest in this film (he's portrayed rather plainly by Johnny Depp), but Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale), the G-man appointed by J. Edgar Hoover (played by the excellent Billy Crudup) to apprehend public enemy #1. Hoover and Purvis both seem confident in their new methods of "scientific" criminology, and yet are painfully and embarrassingly thwarted at every turn by the wily Dillinger. While some actual events are represented (the Little Bohemia Lodge shoot-out, for example), the circumstances surrounding them are wildly inaccurate. I suppose some facts had to be changed in order to expediate the story, but some of these changes seem unnecessary. Those interested in the subject matter might find more entertaining than those who are not.