Public Enemies

1930’s Chicago Revisited in Style, 3 July 2009

Author: gary-444 from United Kingdom

Eighty years after the events, Michael Mann takes on the Period Chicago Gangster genre, and wins, with this entertaining story. Do not be put off by some churlish carping from the critics, much of which is generated by the very high standards that Mann’s films are now judged. The lengthy 140 minute running time flies by leaving the audience wondering about what could have been added to the story, not what should have been omitted.

Essentially this is the story of the life, in his heyday, and death of Gangster John Dillinger. It bounces along, leaving little room for back story or leisurely character development, like Dillinger,it lives for the moment. Johhny Depp is superb as Dillinger, Christian Bale a thoroughly convincing Melvin Purvis, his taciturn but determined G-Man nemesis.

A plot curio is that some time is given over to J Edgar Hoover’s fight to establish an FBI with Purvis operating as his local enforcer.But the role is under developed, it could be dropped with no impact on the plot, making you wonder how much extra footage was left on the cutting room floor, hopefully set for an appearance on the DVD.

Marion Cotillard, a native Frenchwoman, plays the part of the leading lady, and Dillingers love interest, well enough. In a role which offers infrequent appearances, she conforms to the genre requirements of being easily bedded, hit, and cries on demand.

Critics have queried the way that the digital film is shot.There is none of the lushness of “last of the Mohicans”, nor the grittiness of “Collateral”, but the compelling plot leaves little time to worry about that.Review audiences also complained of poor sound quality and mumbled dialogue, not faults that I could identify with on this showing.

The “showdown” between Dillinger and Purvis happens early on, in a scene which is played straight and without lingering fanfare, it is certainly no re-run of De Niro v Pacino in “Heat”.If the film lacks anything it is a sense of Tragedy, so wonderfully apparent in De Palma’s “Carlitos Way”. Depp and Purvis are played so ruthlessly and efficiently by Depp and Bale that pathos and emotional attachment are on pretty short display.

The period is lovingly recreated by Mann and the action sequences, unsurprisingly, never fail to disappoint, indeed when Dillinger is first shown robbing a bank his vault over the counter is seen in graceful slow motion. Diana Krall has a pleasing cameo as a nightclub torch singer performing “Bye Bye Blackbird” and the costumes are a consistent delight.

Punchy, light on its feet and offering weighty roles for Depp and Bale, this will be enjoyed by ardent fans and the curious alike.

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