Public Enemies: Movie Review
Cast: Johnny Depp, Christian Bale, Marion Cotillard, Billy
Crudup, Stephen Dorff
Director: Michael Mann
Guns, girls and gangsters.
You can't really go wrong with a mix like that - and yet somehow, this latest
outing from director Michael Mann, ever so-slightly wrong foots itself.
The year is 1933, and John Dillinger (a suave self assured Johnny Depp) is
taking on the mantle as the people's Robin Hood, robbing banks and generally
raising hell as Public Enemy No 1.
Idolised by the people, and revered among the criminal fraternity, things
start to change for Dillinger with the formation of the Federal Bureau of
Investigation under J Edgar Hoover.
Hoover gives the job of catching Dillinger to FBI Agent Melvin Purvis (a
slightly muted Christian Bale) but as Dillinger's popularity soars and the net
gets tighter, the stakes are raised in this game of cat and mouse.
Public Enemies looks stunning - the recreation of 1930s Depression era
America is superb; right down to the suits, stylish hats and crackle-popping of
the Tommy Guns, there's much to admire in the scenery.
But it's just in the execution of this film that it feels ever so slightly
hollow - Depp is fantastic as Dillinger and has the right swagger, charisma and
charm to pull off the character of someone who modeled themselves on Clark Gable
and was loved by those who were suffering in America's Depression.
Depp is the perfect Dillinger - his relationship with Billie Frechette (the
ever illuminating Marion Cotillard) is raw and real - based on truth and
honesty, their brief affair shows a different side to Dillinger as he tried to
protect her and her honour at all times.
Bale however, is a little underused - and as a result, I didn't feel Purvis'
torment over his role in the FBI - which is a real shame.
I think in many ways, Public Enemies is the antidote to a winter of
blockbusters which has been in your face action - be it the robots of
Transformers or the general bubble gum of Ice Age 3 and Hannah Montana.
It's a slow burner in many places and appears to have other plots bubbling
away in the background - be it the politics of the formation of the FBI or the
continuing misogynist ways of the American public - but the trouble is they're
too subtle and too fleeting to pick up on.
However, it's great to see Michael Mann directing - no-one does characters
meeting for the first time like this director (remember the scene in Heat?)-
perhaps the greatest scene of the film is when Purvis and Dillinger meet,
separated by jail bars. The only action comes from the piercing glares of the
eyes as when they talk, their mouths are obscured by the prison cell.
It's these moments - along with the swirling gliding camera work which ducks
and moves around during the prison breaks and gun fights - that I really wanted
more of during Public Enemies.
Instead I'm left slightly wanting and underwhelmed.