Thursday, July 2, 2009

Public Enemies

Here comes the review of Hollywood's latest summer blockbuster and this is also my first experience with a film by Michael Mann. From what we can see, putting together two leading actors who've played the most memorable blockbuster characters in the last few years is a recipe for success. Obviously, Public Enemies can seem boring in a few parts of the story and gives you a feeling of "been there, seen that". However, anybody should be elated to see a film that talks about history (without boring you) and gives you a fair share of action scenes.


In 1933, John Edgar Hoover (Billy Crudup), the director of the United States Bureau of Investigation (BOI), wants to take down John Dillinger (Johnny Depp), a bank robber labelled as "public enemy no. 1", and his friends. In order to do it, Hoover assembles a task force led by agent Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale). Moreover, this task force will operate in the city of Chicago.

John Edgar Hoover in the late 1920s.

John Dillinger

Obviously, since this is the first time I watch a film directed by Michael Mann, I'm not going to compare Public Enemies with his previous works. However, there's one thing I can tell you. Even if the film deals a little bit with a relation between a cop (Bale) and a crook (Depp), don't expect to see the two leading characters explain to each other how it feels to be on each side of the law (like in John Woo's The Killer). All in all, Public Enemies is your nice gangster film about the entertaining fight between the law and criminality. Besides, add to that the confrontation of two different work ethics. Nothing less. Nothing more.

Obviously, despite that previously mentioned fact, Public Enemies is not one of those action films (or gangster films, for that matter) that takes people for idiots. While its chief mission is to entertain you, the film shamelessly displays its care for historical accuracy through many details such as the locations, costumes and accessories. For instance, the prison in which Dillinger was incarcerated is the real one from history. Therefore, while creativity gives life to a great part of the film, Mann's talent can be discerned through his disdain for clichés for our great pleasure.

With that said, I don't need to tell you that the performance by the cast is rather good, especially from Johnny Depp and Christian Bale. However, one might have a few reservations about Depp's performance. While he's at the centre of the film, his performance can brilliantly conceal through his eyes Dillinger's disregard for the law, coldness and meticulousness. However, you might feel that there's nothing flamboyant that makes his character more memorable than Jack Sparrow. This means that the film's real problem lies in its lack of concern for exploring with depth who Dillinger was and the place he had in the American public opinion. In fact, it's a little bit regrettable that Public Enemies mainly focuses on the bank robberies and the cat-and-mouse game between Dillinger and the BOI.

Finally, Public Enemies is not going to be a great prize contender at the next Oscars given that the good performance from Depp and Bale doesn't surprise you that much. Nonetheless, the film can entertain us without being pathetic to death like certain Hollywood summer blockbusters. Besides, the film is certainly worth seeing more than other films that come out after the Oscars.

Rating: 3.5/5



Origin:USA (2009)
Length:140 minutes
Genre:Crime drama
Screenplay:Ronan Bennett, Michael Mann and Ann Biderman
Director:Michael Mann
Starring:Johnny Depp, Christian Bale, Marion Cotillard and Billy Crudup


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