"I can hit any bank I want, any time. They got to be at every bank, all the time."
by, 2nd July 2009 at 02:15 AM (2141 Views)
Johnny Depp as John Dillinger in Public Enemies
Adaptation of: Public Enemies: America's Greatest Crime Wave
and the Birth of the FBI, 1933–34 by Bryan Burrough
Rated R (for gangster violence and some language.)
Directed by: Michael Mann
Screenplay by: Ronan Bennett, Ann Biderman, and Michael Mann
Johnny Depp as John Dillinger
Christian Bale as Melvin Purvis
Marion Cotillard as Billie Frechette
Channing Tatum as Pretty Boy Floyd
Stephen Dorff as Homer Van Meter
Giovanni Ribisi as Alvin Karpis
Billy Crudup as J. Edgar Hoover
John Dillinger was a bank robber. Period. Michael Mann's latest film doesn't romanticize this fact, and it is his best since 1999's The Insider. Public Enemies is good, from beginning to end; something that is very, very rare in a summer flick not made by Pixar.
Damn. . . just. . . damn.
Just about everything in Public Enemies is damn-near perfect. The cinematography is simply beautiful. Both the costumes and set pieces are meticulously detailed to match that of the 1930s depression-era. In fact, some of the flick was shot on actual historical sites; including the Little Bohemia Lodge in Wisconsin, and Lake County jail in Crown Point, Indiana; the home of Dillinger's most famous escape where he allegedly fooled the guards with a fake gun, which appears in the film.
It is hard to make a biopic like Public Enemies without it feeling like every other film of the like. The story is perfect for a director to coast upon clichés; there are law enforcers, they chasing gangsters, and it is all set during America's recovery from the Great Depression. It it a story that has been done many times before, but Mann stepped away from the clichés, and crafted a unique gangster/crime film that is one of the best ever of its genre.
Very rarely does a flick like this have a truly engaging story. Public Enemies does. Why is it engaging? Well, we don't know much about this man, John Dillinger, and by the end of the movie we still haven't learned much. There is almost an aura of mystery about him. We aren't given any reason as to why he robs banks, other than that he likes it, and there something intriguing about that. The film doesn't deliver too much in the way of drama, but that isn't want I was interested in. I was interested in this character, because he isn't someone you should like, but dammit, I did.
When we aren't focused on the character of John Dillinger, we are given some of the best shootouts in recent memory. This flick is chock-full of amazing gunfights, each of which are very much real; intense, very violent, and delivering of one visceral reaction after another.
Other than the above stated praises, much of what make Public Enemies just that good are the performances from Johnny Depp and Christian Bale.
Johnny Depp delivers one of the best performances of his career, and one of the best ever in the gangster role. This isn't a run-of-the-mill performance like we've seen so many times before in this type of movie. Depp's performance is something to be marveled. He is one of the most human gangster-characters that we've seen, not in that he displays an abundance of emotion, but in that he isn't superhuman. He has his skills that help him during his heists, but he is never portrayed as someone who isn't just another person; like you or me.
Christian Bale also makes his character, Melvin Purvis, the man chasing Dillinger, human. He loves fighting crime just as much as Dillinger loves committing it. This is a different turn for Bale. After seeing him as the intense, complex, flawed Bruce Wane/Batman in The Dark Knight, we see him in a much more subdued, yet equally as human, role. Here he once again displays his versatility as an actor. Bale has the potential to be one of the great modern actors, and he is well on his way to becoming just that.
Public Enemies is a film you must see in theater. It isn't possible to fully appreciate the intricate action sequences without a viewing at the cinema. I don't see it receiving any Oscar nominations past a possible Best Costume Design or Best Cinematography nod, but that doesn't detract from its merits as a fantastic piece of filmmaking. It is engaging, technically brilliant, and contains some of the best performances of the summer. I've finally met John Dillinger, and I want to spend more time with him.
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