Sunday, July 5, 2009

Public Enemies Review

Public Enemies starring Johnny Depp released this past Wednesday and I got a chance to view it earlier this week.

Public Enemies, directed by acclaimed director Michael Mann, focuses on the story of John Dillinger. An American real life gangster, Dillinger was notorious for robbing banks throughout the midwestern United States. According to him the police were "not tough enough,smart enough, or fast enough" to catch him. He was glorified by the public and was hated by the Chicago police. He was virtually uncatchable until July of 1934 where he met his demise in front of the Biograph theater in Chicago.

The plot for Public Enemies is certainly an interesting one. Melvin Purvis (Bale) heads the FBI team in charge of hunting down Dillinger's gang who never seem to be in the right place at the right time. Dillinger escapes capture for more than two years even while keeping his 'daytime job' and wooing a girl (Cotillard).

Johnny Depp certainly has some acting chops. His portrayal of the gangster Dillinger was outstanding, top notch. The look, the expressions, the wittiness was all above expectations. He blew me away. He had this 'flare' about him that told me he was John Dillinger.

Christian Bale disappointed me however. He played the lead FBI agent, Melvin Purvis, who had a strong southern accent. Nothing seemed to flow about him and his character. The dialogue seemed forced and out of place. His accent felt as if he was doing a MadTV skit. With Depp, I felt I was watching Dillinger. With Bale, I felt as if I was just watching Christian Bale trying to be someone he wasn't. I know he can act, but this wasn't the right role for him.

Marion Cotillard played the girl of Dillinger's affection, Billie Frechette. She may not be a household name, but she held her place. It never felt as if she was being overpowered by Depp's presence. From the trailer, Frechette seems like a helpless girl, caught up in Dillinger's world. By the end of the movie, Cotillard had me believing she was the real person. She brought toughness to her character by the end of the movie. She surprised me the most of all the performances in this film.

There are some things I have to complain about. The running time was a bit too long. Some scenes were just too drawn out. The action filled scenes will Dillinger and his crew robbing banks seemed dwarfed by scenes involving Purvis and his team trying to catch him. I wanted more Depp and guns and less Bale. Please Mr. Mann.

There was no characterization anywhere in this. This kind of stuff isn't the fault of the actors however but it falls on the shoulders of the screenwriters. We never see Dillinger before he becomes a bank robber, we never know why he wants to do this. He just tells Billy that there are places he wants to go. The same thing happened with Bale. It seemed like starting a TV show 15 minutes in and stopping before it ends. We never learned motivations for any of the characters' actions and we never know what they felt about each one. Dillinger > Robs banks and goes home. Takes his money and sleeps... Purvis > He shows up to stop Dillinger. That's it. We don't see Purvis's personal life, nothing.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed watching Public Enemies. It was great seeing Depp take a more conventional approach to his character. The plot was great, I was never bored. There were some major and minor flaws present but it's easy to look past them while gazing at the beautiful shots of Michael Mann's offspring. My rating: B+


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