Jared B.'s Profile - Rotten Tomatoes

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Public Enemies
6 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

Michael Mann is back and Johnny Depp and Christian Bale have come along with him. It all sounds like a match made in heaven as Mann's latest work revolves around the true story of John Dillinger's rise to fame during the 1930s as a bank robber and robin hood figure.

Unfortunately, that promise doesn't mesh together so neatly. Depp does an admirable job as the sly gangster that is John Dillinger, and several of the bank robbing and jail break scenes are quite slick. You can tell Depp was devoted to making it look right and prepared accordingly. And he gets the whole "there's nothing in the world that can stop me" demeanor across very well. It's the lack of scope given to the character that's the problem. Save for one sequence, we never really get a feeling of just how big of a legend and public enemy this guy was. The film's title is almost misleading in this sense.

On the FBI side of things, Bale plays agent Melvin Purvis who is charged with the task of bringing down Dillinger. If you're expecting a Bale vs. Depp showdown, then you'll be sorely disappointed to find these two share only one scene(one which never happened in real life). At first, Bale's character is an interesting piece to the film with his introduction being the killing of Pretty Boy Floyd, but he quickly boggles down to no more than a man who just can't seem to get the job done. And there's little to no development for him after that. J. Edgar Hoover, played by Billy Crudup, is sadly underused in much the same fashion. Much of Dillinger's actions were responsible for the rise of Hoover and the FBI, and that's something else Public Enemies fails to fully capitalize on.

I've made this film seem very flimsy and one dimensional so far, but there is actually plenty to like here. Mann's choice to shoot in digital with hand-held cameras is a smart choice for this period piece despite what some may think. The production designs are superb as the 1930s come alive, and no detail goes unnoticed when it comes to the clothing or general look of that time. And if there's one thing Mann does better than most, it's shooting action. His techniques are on full display here with all of the tommy guns one could hope for. Your sound system will have you feeling like you're in an actual shootout.

With that said, Public Enemies is filled with plenty of glamor but falls short on substance when it comes to plot. It's a good movie that could have been a great one, and that is what sucks of all. 7/10