7.07.2009

Movie Review – Public Enemies


4 words – “Christian Bale” and “Johnny Depp” – two of the best actors today finally in one film together. Although they rarely have scenes together they both contribute greatly to this sexy, dangerous crime film. Director Michael Mann takes us back to the Depression when robbing banks was the money making scheme of choice in a pre-Madoff world and John Dillinger (Depp) is named Public Enemy #1 by the head of the FBI J. Edgar Hoover. Melvin Purvis (Bale) is the FBI agent in charge of bringing Dillinger down. Depp and Bale are joined by an extraordinary support cast who create a thrilling cat and mouse chase based on actual events. Whether you love a crime film or you’re in love with Johnny Depp (like me) – “Public Enemies” will unshackle you from summer sequel boredom.

Pros:
- The Support Cast – Recreating an entire FBI department as well as an entire “gang” of bank robbers takes more than two leading men. The secondary characters of “Enemies” make the story more complete and in an understated way, fulfill the feel of the movie. They really are the atmosphere as much as the props, Bale and Depp. I was really impressed with the whole ensemble, which includes: David Wenham (“Australia”), Stephen Dorff, Channing Tatum (“Stop-Loss”), Rory Cochrane (“CSI: Miami”), Emilie de Ravin (“Lost”), Billy Crudup, Marion Cotillard (Academy Award Winner for her role in “La Vie en Rose”), Giovanni Ribisi (“Perfect Stranger”), Domenick Lombardozzi (“The Wire”), Shawn Hatosy (“Southland”), and many, many other talented folks.

- The Cinematography – One of the most standout characteristics of “Enemies” is the way the cameras work. It’s shot in a documentary type style, which I really like because it brought me more into the story. As opposed to watching this bank robber’s life unfold the filming style has the audience living the height of Dillinger’s life with him. It’s also beneficial for Bale’s side of the story. When the cameras are on him, no matter how much you love Dillinger, you want Purvis to catch the man.

- The Visuals – Taking place around the Depression, Michael Mann and his creative team restore the distinctive 1930’s look by not recreating anything at all actually. Much of the film was shot at historical locations still standing that many of the Dillinger events took place such as the Little Bohemia Lodge where Dillinger and some of his gang were found by the FBI and engaged in a gun fight.


- The Soundtrack - Elliot Goldenthal has done notable scores for other films like “Across the Universe” and “Frida.” For “Enemies” he combines bad-boy, blue grass type tunes with music from the era as well as piano melodies that all help to paint the perfect picture.

- Christian Bale – Bale’s “Purvis” is serious. I don’t think he smiles once during the film (well maybe once in the beginning when he’s gunning down a famous gangster), but it works playing both to Bale's assets as an actor as well as the tone of the character.


- Johnny Depp – Oh how I love Depp, let me count the ways. Maybe I’ll save that for another post – I’ll stay focused for the sake of the review. Depp’s Dillinger is sexy with a sense of true danger. There’s a subtly that the man sometimes fears for his life and is deeply hurt at the loss of friends or their mistreatment. I feel like I got to know John Dillinger with all credit due to another phenomenal Depp performance. No wonder he’s my favorite!



Cons:
- Length – At over an hour and a half in length “Enemies” could have used a few more edits (just not cutting out any of Depp – hehe).

- How Much is True – Scenes such as Dillinger walking through the “Dillinger Division” of the FBI without any of the staff recognizing him and scenes like people waving at him like a celebrity while he’s being driven to prison then Dillinger not being recognized in a movie theater make me wonder how much of the movie represents actual events.

- Purvis Point of View - More of Purvis’ point of view or more of a glimpse into his personal life would have added a nice symmetry to the film.


Summary:
“Public Enemies” is a wonderful bio pic of two legendary Depression era men – one robs banks and the other hunts bank robbers - they both like their guns. The whole team behind “Enemies” should be quite proud. Although I don’t think it’ll be up for any major awards this season, it’s a must see. The talent is reflected in all aspects of the movie – everything from the camera angles, to the score, to the costumes and best of all – the ensemble cast (and Johnny of course - swoon).

What did you think of the 30’s era picture? Did you think the cast was right or that maybe Leonardo DiCaprio should have played the notorious Dillinger?

"Basically, I'm for anything that gets you through the night - be it prayer, tranquilizers or a bottle of Jack Daniels.” – Frank Sinatra
So may the prayers, tranquilizers and JD be with you and see you next time.