Director: Michael Mann
Cast: Johnny Depp, Christian Bale, Marion Cotillard, Giovanni Ribisi, Billy Crudup, Stephen Dorff, Rory Cochrane, Stephen Lang, David Wenham, Stephen Graham, Channing Tatum, Jason Clarke
RunTime: 2 hrs 23 mins
Released By: UIP
Rating: NC-16 (Some Violence)
Official Website: http://www.publicenemies.net/
Opening Day: 23 July 2009
In the action-thriller "Public Enemies," acclaimed filmmaker Michael Mann directs Johnny Depp, Christian Bale and Academy Award® winner Marion Cotillard in the story of legendary Depression-era outlaw John Dillinger (Depp)—the charismatic bank robber whose lightning raids made him the number one target of J. Edgar Hoover's fledgling FBI and its top agent, Melvin Purvis (Bale), and a folk hero to much of the downtrodden public.
No one could stop Dillinger and his gang. No jail could hold him. His charm and audacious jailbreaks endeared him to almost everyone—from his girlfriend Billie Frechette (Cotillard) to an American public who had no sympathy for the banks that had plunged the country into the Depression.
But while the adventures of Dillinger's gang—later including the sociopathic Baby Face Nelson (Stephen Graham) and Alvin Karpis (Giovanni Ribisi)—thrilled many, Hoover (Billy Crudup) hit on the idea of exploiting the outlaw's capture as a way to elevate his Bureau of Investigation into the national police force that became the FBI. He made Dillinger America's first Public Enemy Number One and sent in Purvis, the dashing "Clark Gable of the FBI."
However, Dillinger and his gang outwitted and outgunned Purvis' men in wild chases and shootouts. Only after importing a crew of Western ex-lawmen (newly baptized as agents) and orchestrating epic betrayals—from the infamous "Lady in Red" to the Chicago crime boss Frank Nitti—were Purvis, the FBI and their new crew of gunfighters able to close in on Dillinger.
For a movie that is focus on an unsavory criminal who murdered police officers, escaped jail a couple of times and robbed at least a dozen of banks, it’s easy to figure out that the spotlight here would be why John Dillinger was idolized by people of that era (the Great Depression) and without a doubt, Johnny Depp was the right choice to play the character.
His charisma translate onto his screen character effortlessly and it’s easy to fall under his devil may care persona. Johnny Depp also flashed his mischievous trademarks all over Public Enemies and if you can’t get your fill of his devilish playfulness in Pirates of the Caribbean series, you will get another wicked dose here in Public Enemies. In short, his performance here paints an intriguing insight to John Dillinger character and is once again, worth the ticket price.
Christian Bale on the other hand, had a little less to work on (or exemplify upon). In the past, he had worked with other male A-lister in Hollywood (such as Hugh Jackman in The Prestige and Russell Crowe in 3:10 to Yuma) and had substantial bits to work on but in Public Enemy, his law enforcer role was relegated to a supporting one with very little to take note of. His role as Melvin Pruvis, felt similar to the one he played in 3:10 to Yuma (as Dan Evans) in terms of it’s single track mind to capture the guilty but lacks the moral ambiguity that made Dan Evans a far more interesting character to follow.
Besides captivating performance by Mr Depp, there are a couple of things that were interesting to note. For those uninitiated, it was interesting to see the development of the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) and a small but eye opener insight on one of the iconic personals in America history, J. Edgar Hoover. It’s also fascinating to note how they cramp down crimes and compared to the flamboyant criminals, their methods seems rather controversially underhanded.
There’s also a nod to how rivalry ends in death and respects are given even for the criminals. While it’s not being hammer out, those small moments seep through in a meaningful ways. Even though the law enforcer and bank robbers are in a deadly cat and mouse chase, the respect for a human life lost were never taken for granted and that honorable way of treating an enemy were little sparks in this movie that caught my eyes.
If there’s anything that marred this movie, it would be the choice of using HD camera. While it looked great in Collateral (particularity capturing the night scenes), it felt like it wasn’t a good choice for a movie like Public Enemies. Looking at the effort made to replicate the 1930s (the production sets, the costumes and etc), it just felt the effort had gone down the drain when the end results on screen looked so grainy and the color looked washed out. It’s not an everyday occurrence that talents like Johnny Depp, Christian Bale and Marion Cotillard would come together to tackle on such rich historic characters / events and yet sadly let down by the final picture quality just seems like a bad choice.
(Great performance and story but a let down due to the usage of HD camera here in Public Enemies)
Review by Richard Lim Jr