Main actors: Johnny Depp, Christian Bale, Marion Cotillard, Billy Crudup. Director: Michael Mann.
FILM SYNOPSIS:Recently escaped from prison, infamous criminal mastermind John Dillinger (Johnny Depp) goes on the rampage, robbing banks across the Midwest during the Depression-riddled 1930s with his gaggle of gun-toting ex-cons like “Baby Face” Nelson (Stephen Graham).
Eventually, however, Dillinger meets his overdue fate when faced with the law-enforcing Bureau of Investigation (later to be named the FBI), headed by Director J. Edgar Hoover (Billy Crudup). Special Agent Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale) and the other G-men who have been trailing Dillinger for the past 14 months finally bring justice.
PREVIEW REVIEW:Based on the true-life story of this convict and his unsavory cronies, this rated R Michael Mann film from Universal Pictures presents a sympathetic look at wonderkind Dillinger and his protective love for the young Billie Frechette (played by French-born Marion Cotillard).
Instead of amplifying mob violence, as we have seen done in much-heralded movies like The Godfather, making some hokey film noir horror picture like Scarface, reverting to wise-guy antics of a classic James Cagney shoot ‘em up, or resorting to cartoonish caricatures, the drama in Public Enemies is never over-the-top or cheesy nor does it purport to glorify gang lifestyle.
Public Enemies is less about guns and robberies and more about Dillinger as a conflicted criminal, one who is both cold-blooded and nurturing. It is Dillinger’s mystery, most effectively played by the ever versatile and charismatic Depp, that becomes the center point of this cinematically rich crime drama.
This gangster flick could have included much foul language and sex. Fortunately, there is reduced bad language in the film, and the sexual scenes, which are kept to a minimum, are more suggestive than explicit.
There are a couple of drawbacks to this Depp-Bale theatrical release. For starters, the movie runs long. The 140-minute film seems to drag in places. Plus, I found myself straining through some portions of the film because the sound was muffled. Whether that was the fault of the movie theatre, the film print itself, or the audio editing, I couldn’t say. But it annoyed nonetheless. Bale disappoints as Agent Purvis. As one who typically likes Bale as an actor, in this movie he comes across as stiff and uncomfortable on the screen. His wooden performance leaves a lot to be desired. And, lastly, there is a lot of violence. And though the violence isn’t necessarily gratuitous, based as the film is on real historical events, it plays a huge role in the film. For those who are particularly sensitive to on-screen shootings, this crime drama might not be the best pick.
However, overall I found the film a great vehicle to showcase the talents of the stellar Depp. The film’s visual beauty and focus on the inner passions and motivations of characters, rather than on violent filmic events, is what saves it from being yet another throwaway cops and robbers flick. And for those who are looking for a moral takeaway, there is one: Good wins over evil. The wicked get their just punishment.