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Genre Crime Drama
Running Time 140 min
Release Date Jul 1, 2009
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Public Enemies

Depression-era bank robber John Dillinger's (Johnny Depp) charm and audacity endear him to much of America's downtrodden public, but he's also a thorn in the side of J. Edgar Hoover (Billy Crudup) and the fledgling FBI. Desperate to capture the elusive outlaw, Hoover makes Dillinger his first Public Enemy Number One and assigns his top agent, Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale), the task of bringing him in dead or alive.

Starring
Johnny Depp John Dillinger
Christian Bale Melvin Purvis
Marion Cotillard Billie Frechette
Billy Crudup J. Edgar Hoover
Stephen Dorff Homer Van Meter
Stephen Lang Charles Winstead
Channing Tatum "Pretty Boy" Floyd
Stephen Graham Baby Face Nelson
Giovanni Ribisi Alvin Karpis
Jason Clarke "Red" Hamilton

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Oct 31, 2009 - joneil on Public Enemies
"Public Enemies" Review

“Public Enemies,” the latest from director Michael Mann (“Heat,” “Miami Vice”), follows the life of John Dillinger, the notorious bank robber during the Great Depression. The film opens with Dillinger (Johnny Depp) rescuing some of his buddies from a prison in Indiana. Once they escape, they return to their favorite pastime: robbing banks. Meanwhile, J. Edgar Hoover (Billy Crudup), a police administrator, and Agent Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale) start “the United State’s first war on crime.”

With the new threat of Purvis’s police force – which would eventually evolve into the FBI – one would think that Dillinger would be a little worried about his lifestyle, but this is not the case. As he says to one of his cohorts in the film, “We’re having too good a time today. We ain’t thinking about tomorrow.” Needless to say, Dillinger does not feel threatened by the workings of Hoover and Purvis. Bank robbing, to him, is like a job, and he knows how good he is at it. When Billie Frechette (Marion Contillard), Dillinger’s love interest, asks him about his profession, he answers with an almost candid professionalism, “I’m John Dillinger and I rob banks.” It is this adventurous, daring spirit that attracts Billie – whose life, according to her, has been, for the most part, rather dull. At the same time, she is frightened by Dillinger’s dangerous lifestyle, but eventually is gently soothed by his promise of protection. Cotillard perfectly displays Billie’s naivety in believing Dillinger and carries it through to the film’s powerful conclusion. Contillard’s power in the final scene alone easily confirms that she is best in show.

Depp’s performance – while not as memorable or as detailed as some of his past performances – is still interesting. He manages to infuse Dillinger with a coolness and confidence that suggests feelings of invulnerability within Dillinger. It is these traits that allow Depp’s Dillinger to easily win over Cotillard’s Billie.

Cotillard and Depp’s performances, as well as the uniqueness of their character’s relationship, ensure that the romance between Billie and Dillinger is the best part of the film. Their relationship, unfortunately, seems to be the only idea in the script that was fully developed. While the public’s fascination with Dillinger is mentioned and seen to good effect in a couple of scenes, it is never fully explored. Mann also hints at some ideas regarding police ethics, but they do not really come into play until the third act. There are also some interesting lines about Dillinger’s moral code when bank robbing. The problem is that none of these ideas are developed enough for them to resonate. The only idea that feels fully rendered is Billie and Dillinger’s aforementioned relationship, and even that feels a tad incomplete when Cotillard’s character disappears during the film’s second act. Instead of using one or two ideas, Mann insists on exploring five or six, and in a better screenplay, that could have worked, but Mann and screenwriters Ronan Bennett and Ann Bidermann inject too many side characters. Some of these characters are introduced briefly at the beginning of the film, disappear, and then play a major role in the film’s conclusion. This makes the film feel cluttered and hard to follow. The excess of side characters stifles not only the ideas that film may be trying to get across, but also the characterization of the main characters. While this does not hurt Cotillard and Depp, it does hurt Bale, whose character comes off as dull and unthreatening.

Because Bale’s Purvis is so uninteresting, it makes the scenes involving him and his amateur police force feel unnecessary. One wishes Mann might have spent more time probing the psyche of Dillinger, instead of trying to sloppily weave the two narrative threads together, thus giving the film’s first half a rather sluggish pace. Once Dillinger and Purvis meet in a scene near the film’s half-way point, the pacing picks up and the weaving of the two narratives feels more natural. While the film is still plagued with an excess of characters in its second half, they do not affect the pace at which the story is conveyed.

The film’s second half also showcases some of the film’s best sequences. One of them, a thrilling chase through the woods, while somewhat convoluted, is both original and suspenseful. However, it is the film’s last few sequences that are its most memorable. Everyone knows that Dillinger eventually dies (no spoilers here), but the sequence depicting his assassination is both visually enticing and sharply conveyed.

Speaking of the film’s visual merits, many have complained about Mann’s aesthetic for “Public Enemies.” Mann shot the picture on video instead of film in order to give the story a more realistic feel. Many think that the visuals in the film look too murky and unfitting for a period piece, but I appreciated that it gave the film a distinctive look – a look that will make the film memorable when compared to other crime films. Unfortunately, this visual style – along with Cotillard’s great performance – may be the only things that the film is remembered for. In conclusion, “Public Enemies” falls short of greatness.

Jul 02, 2009 - buffmoviebuff on Public Enemies
Great flick

Johnny Depp and Christian Bale do an awsome job of playing their parts while avoiding the temptation to overact. I applaud the director for making a violent modern day gangster movie without profanity, irrelevant sex and gratuitous gore. So if you're looking for those three things you will be dissapointed. If you're looking for a well acted movie with non-stop action...you'll love it! Depp can say more with a smirk than most actors can say in complete film.

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