5
Jul
2009
Review: Public Enemies
Public Enemies
Sam
Michael Mann's newest film Public Enemies was one of my most anticipated movies for this summer. Maybe that's why it let me down so much. It had had all the makings of a great summer flick: bank robberies, guns, Johnny Depp and Christian Bale. But it just did not deliver on so many levels.

The film chronicles the life (well the bank robbing part) of the notorious bank-robber, John Dillinger (Depp). We see how he breaks out of prison (twice!) and how he robs banks and so on and so forth. The other side of the coin to this movie is following Melvin Purvis, the man given the task of tracking down Dillinger, by any means necessary. It is important that he get Dillinger to maintain the reputation of this new thing called the FBI run by J. Edgar Hoover (played like a radio-show actor by Billy Crudup aka walking talking blue penis, he also played Dr Manhattan). We also get a peek into Dillinger's private life in his relationship with Billie Frechette (Marion Cotillard).

There's a great story here and certainly a great cast but the movie was just not executed well. I'm going to lay the blame on Mann for this one. I thought the pacing of the film was too slow for a movie that seems like it should be moving a mile a minute, at least that is how it was being promoted. I also did not like Mann's digital camera shake-fest. It worked quite well in his 2004 movie, Collateral. But the 1930's should not be seen through the eyes of a shaky camcorder. The digital shots and shakiness took me out of the viewing experience and made think about what camera he was using and how he was shaking the thing like a baby that won't be quite.

I found the movie to be at times very boring. I almost dozed off in the middle there, and there were a few checks of the watch. Mann shows us what we already know and what we've already seen in bank heist movies. Dillinger's fame is only briefly mentioned and as to why he's so famous seems to be explained in one throw-away line (something about giving back the people's money at the bank). I want to know more about Dillinger the person. How'd he get so damn good? Where does he come from (this is obviously mentioned also in one quick line, but I mean how did he get to be this way).

It wasn't all bad though. The acting was strong in the film, but that's what you'd expect with this cast. Beside the big three mentioned earlier the cast sported people like Giovanni Ribisi, Domenick Lombardozzi (Wire!), Stephen Dorff, and Lilli Taylor (Six Feet Under!).

While I don't think Mann's style meshed well with this film, he is certainly a talented director. It came in bits of flashes throughout the film with good shots coming here and there. What impressed me the most was probably the last 10-15 minutes of the film which I thought were the strongest. Without revealing any spoilers, it had the emotion, and drama the rest of the film could have used. In the end though, this was just a mediocre bank-robbery movie where Dillinger's name could have been interchanged with any fictional character's name and it would have been basically unrecognizable. This was my first real disappointment of the summer.

C
Tags:
comments powered by Disqus