New in theaters in legendary filmmaker Michael Mann‘s new film Public Enemies starring Johnny Depp, Christian Bale, and Academy Award winner Marion Cotillard. Although this film is being marketed as another action-thrill ride, it’s not, it’s more than that, it’s a solid film.
Check out the good, the bad, and the plot below…
Public Enemies tells the true story of legendary Depression-era bank robber John Dillinger (Depp), whose charm and lightening fast speed made him one of the most wanted and most loved bank robbers of all time. Due to his fame, J. Edgar Hoover’s (Billy Crudup) fledgling top FBI agent, Melvin Purvis (Bale), was put on the case to stop Dillinger, which proved to be a much more difficult than expected. Often the problem wasn’t catching him, it was keeping him! While in the midst of his fame, he audaciously picked up girlfriend Billie Frechette (Cotillard) and added her to his list of treasures. After a number of run ins with other infamous thieves including Baby Face Nelson (Stephen Graham) the FBI made Dillinger America’s first Public Enemy Number One. Although Dillinger outwitted and outgunned Purvis’ many times, with help from outside gunman, Purvis and the FBI able to close in on Dillinger and begin the real hunt.
- The Acting: Although all three stars of the film Johnny Depp, Christian Bale, and Marion Cotillard — as well as the phenomenal supporting cast, Billy Crudup, Channing Tatum, Giovanni Ribisi, Branka Katic and MANY more — all put in amazing performances, the award for the best actor goes to Depp for his role as John Dillinger. He helps you to understand the neurosis, fears, and dreams of a real like legend like Dillinger, all the while being completely and utterly charming and yet dangerous. I wasn’t expecting so much from what looked to be just an action-thrill ride, but yet again Depp rises above expectations and puts in an amazing performance. Go team Depp!
- The Dialogue: Gives you everything you need without any excess. There is no greater compliment when it comes to dialogue. Nicely done Ronan Bennett, Michael Mann, and Ann Biderman.
- The Overall Look: From the costumes and make-up, to the facial expressions and overall demeanor, thanks to an amazing crew the entire film had a genuine 30′s quality to it.
- The Simplicity: Although they’re marketing this as a thriller, the film seemed more like a drama with action scenes laced in. Everything is done very straight-forward perspective, they’re not trying to trick you in any clever way, they’re merely telling the true-ish story of John Dillinger from start to end.
- The Sound Mixing: At the screening I attended, they kept us all in the lobby for 45 minutes with Michael Mann “adjusted the sound.” We were told repeatedly that Mann is a stickler about the way his movie sounds. In fact when I sat down I realized that Mann was about 10 feet away from me still making adjustments. Sadly, it was to no avail. Perhaps there was a problem in the theater, but the film sounded bad. Lines would start out quiet and then end loud. People were yelling “louder.” This was one of the first screenings I’ve ever seen where the volume was about two notches too low. Maybe other films have made me a bit deaf, but I was unable to hear lines and noises that were necessary to the film. At one point a car door closes and does not make a noise, which may have been intentional, but was distracting either way.
- Christian Bales’ Character: Bale’s character Melvin Purvis needed some redeeming qualities. I’m still not sure why he doesn’t deliver the last line in the film to Marion Cotillard instead of the person who does (get back to me after you’ve seen the film). It’s obvious that Purvis is driven and that he’s fighting for what he believes is right, but the entire time you’re rooting for Dillinger and at some point you have to see the good in what Purvis’ is doing, otherwise he is just a monster who never balances out the equation. Which leads me too…
- Lack of Cat and Mouse: When you’re watching the hunter chase the hunted, you need to see how they are connected. Both of them are in this together. Dillinger likes being hunted, he enjoys being an outlaw, and Purvis’ enjoys hunting people and putting them away. The two have a relationship, a bond that few people could ever understand. I never saw any kind of bond between them, which may have to do with…
- The Moment: What are we all waiting for? To see the two big stars in the film Depp and Bale square off, and they never get their moment! They have one (count um one!) scene together which is probably about 60-90 seconds. We never have a chance to really see their dynamic. Although they do a lot in those 90 seconds, I wanted more for in a 140 minute film.
- No Sense of Satisfaction: Yes, you have to stay true to the story, but we’re also here to watch a movie. We need a stand off, recognition that these isn’t a stand off, a moral, something, in order to feel satisfied walking out of the theater.
- The Moral: Damn the Man?
Overall the characters are far more interesting than the story. Although I could respect the movies and the actors in it, I was never truly engaged with the film and therefore it left me feeling a bit cold. That being said, the acting is enough to keep you entertained 140 minutes and that’s no easy task!