Posted on 12/22/09 05:36 AM
I am always amazed when a movie based on actual events finds a way to keep me focused and riveted to me seat. Yeah, I know what's gonna happen, but dammit, the suspense is killing me. Apollo 13 is a great example of this. Public Enemies, unfortunately, is not.
Micheal Mann used a deliberate style mixed with heavy action to perfection in Heat. He was also able to give us the strong, developed character driven Aviator. In Public Enemies, Mann tries to combine the two and is only able to pull out a beautifully shot, disjointed, boring mess.
The movie tries to show the desperations of the times, Dillinger himself, and the outlaw's situation as it deteriorates. This desperation never fully forms: we see it, hear it, but never feel it. As the ending approached, I found myself just waiting for Dilinger to get shot so it could all be over. There never was that satisfying tension that built and built until I couldn't stand it any longer.
Part of the problem, for me, was lack of character development. This is partially due to the way the script and story line play out and partially due to the acting. I know I am going to take a beating on this one, but I thought Depp's Dillinger and Bale's Purvis were some of both actor's weakest outings. I love the two of them, don't get me wrong, but one get's a sense that Mann trusted the actors to pull off what the script could not. Unfortunately,neither character held much depth and both had accents that came across as affected. Dilinger showed little humanity until the end, though it was made out that he was simply a man wronged by society who was raised badly... but he was a swell guy otherwise. I thought that Giovani Ribisi and Steven Lang, both in small, supporting roles outshone the two leads and the abysmal Marion Cotilliard as Billie, JD's love interest. I never felt like her character was real.
Neither she or the script made any sense of what type of woman she was. We know why she followed Dilinger, but it never comes out in the chemistry.
The one thing that worked for me was a bumbling neophyte police/federal force using any means necessary to get its man used as perhaps a parralel for a modern security force doing whatever it has to do to stop the spread of terrorism. The ends may justify the means, but those ends have moral and ethical repercussions. Hoover, played nicely by Billy Cruddup, as a stand in for the big government of today. Or maybe I am digging to deep.
I was really looking forward to this one, but in the end, it just went on forever, never building itself, plateauing after the initial prison break scene and never rises or falls much after that. The scenes felt editied together clumsily and some of the direction was odd (How many times does the camera flare really need to be the focus of our attention?)Still, the movie was beautifully shot and did a good job of recreating an era thaty could easily look staged. My worst let-down since the Fourth-Indiana-Jones-Movie-Which-Shall-Not-Be-Named, but not nearly as bad.