A clinical piece of film making that is unfortunately devoid of any emotional gravitas to base itself around, it drags itself through the critical part of Dillinger’s life with the occasional dash of charm delivered by an excellent Johnny Depp. Next to ‘Assassination of Jesse James’, ‘Public Enemies’ is a completely mundane experience.
I am a big fan of Michael Mann, the man responsible for some brilliant movies such as ‘Miami Vice’, ‘Collateral’ and ‘Heat’. Unfortunately ‘Pubic Enemies’ completely falters when held up to the light of his previous work.
The premise follows the ardently true story of depression era outlaw John Dillinger (Johnny Depp), picking up at the point where he brilliantly orchestrates a prison break after being locked up for the previous 9 years for the crime of holding up a grocery store. Soon after his escape he began his era of robbing bank after bank with a work ethic akin to Robin Hood making him a hero to the public but Public Enemy Number One to the authorities. Soon enough he garners an entire division of the Chicago Police Department to be devoted to his capture, as well as being the reason the first cross state line federal authorities were created that would develop in to the infamous FBI we know today. The man hunt for Dillinger was spearheaded by Special Agent Melvin Pervis (Christian Bale) who had to suffer with the failures of a mainly moronic supporting cast of officers. The supporting cast of the film itself was outstanding however; with likes of Dillinger’s love escapade Billie Frechette played by Oscar winner Marion Cotillard, J. Edgar Hoover played by Billy Crudup (Watchmen), Dillinger’s various cohorts played by Stephen Dorff, Giovanni Ribisi, Leelee Sobieski and David Wenham among many others. Most of you may not recognize these actors by name, but it was superb to see such fine detail given to every aspect of ‘Public Enemies’ because its strength and saving grace was its frame by frame excellence in film-making.
Unfortunately, this was a rather unexciting movie and I feel very unexcited writing about it. I want to finish writing this review as soon as possible. In my eyes, the whole point of a movie is to evoke emotion whether it is positive or negative in any manner. The ultimate failing of this film is that it strangely ended without any emotion or sense of closure…. Through the course of the film we may feel distraught at the actions of “Baby Face” Nelson when working alongside Dillinger, or softened by the charm through which Dillinger encapsulates Billie Frechette, but ultimately we felt no conflict and no progress. Maybe that is a testament to the true story of John Dillinger, a man who lacked the will to think beyond tomorrow yet capitalized the finest points of his imagination to make the most of today. Just like that you will remember nothing about this film the day after, neither good nor bad.
Luckily as an audience we witness Johnny Depp deliver a powerhouse of a performance with fantastic panache and confidence. Dillinger went as he pleased and did as he pleased with the utmost ease. The desperation of the young FBI was never properly conveyed, which can be traced back to another tasteless, cold hearted and robotic performance by the ever demising Christian Bale. If I continue to discuss this issue I will not be able refrain my anger and rage that epitomises my feelings toward Bale as a person and as an actor. There was never a character complex or a clash between Dillinger and Pervis and this is absolutely the fault of Christian Bale delivering a cold and weak portrayal of the man whose sole responsibility was to hunt down Public Enemy Number One. The finest aspect of Michael Mann’s previous films was the phenomenal character chemistry he delivered on screen with Tom Cruise/Jamie Foxx in ‘Collateral’, Al Pacino/De Niro in ‘Heat’ and Colin Farrell/Jamie Foxx in ‘Miami Vice’ and it was completely missing in this film. Probably another reason why the film felt so vacated of feelings.
Do not waste your time or precious money watching it in theaters. Actually do not watch it all, instead I highly recommend another outlaw film called ‘The Assassination of Jesse James’ starring a brilliant Casey Affleck, Brad Pitt and Sam Rockwell in what has to be one of the finest films of the decade. Back on topic and too surmise, Johnny Depp was brilliant in this film and is the only reason you may want to keep your bumb seated in the cinema through the two hours and twenty minutes, and if you are female its probably the only reason you came in to the cinema in the first place.
As we departed the theater, a colleague of mine remarked “It took Michael Scofield one year and a body of full of tattoos to escape prison; John Dillinger did it in five minutes with the help of a janitor and his mop”. Sly, true and entertaining summation of how cool the character of Dillinger is. Ultimately though the experience of watching this film was rather drab, its sum of parts outside Johnny Depp was weak and the movie itself was so long so I absolutely do not want this review to be long. So then, I bid you adieu.
Christian Bale is an incumbent fool.
credit to http://www.comingsoon.net for the images