Public Enemies Mild Spoilers Review (2 of 5)



This movie was definitely for the ladies. Note how the words form an arrow pointing to Depp's crotch.

 I saw Public Enemies the night it opened but have had trouble writing a review for it. I think it’s easier when you have strong feelings about the film, one way or the other. I was pretty lukewarm with this one….It bored me for some reason and I really didn’t care for any of the characters depicted in the movie. The movie really doesn’t give you the reason to. It’s a great looking film for the most part (it’s professional looking), but I thought that to be one of the problems. This movie takes place in 1933, but I never got the real sense that the Great Depression was going on. Most everything in this movie, from the architecture, to the clothes, to the vehicles reeks of  Hollywood set designers which made everything look very clean (which isn’t my perception of the depression era). And while looking great, i have to say that a lot of the cinematography was awful. There also was a lot of  hand-held  camera work. In the right hands that can be a good thing, but it seems a lot of directors (and long time directors) are using it just because it’s ‘all the rage’. They’re not shooting the hand held stuff for any reason, it’s just for the sake of doing it, and it comes off as poor film-making. I also have to say there were a few shots that looked absolutely awful for a big budget movie, like they were using a cheap DV camera and had it on ‘digital zoom’. Some scenes reminded me of the movie Open Water which was shot on DV by amateurs (and it showed).


This movie is an all style, little substance account of the last days of notorious bank robber John Dillinger. If you take it for what it is, which is an anti-hero fantasy using a famous criminal as its centerpiece, it’s tolerable to watch. If you’re looking for what actually transpired… well, you’re not exactly going to get that. There are many changes to historic record in this film, which you’re free to call it ‘artistic license’ all that you want, but when there are changes made to suit a director’s particular ideology or world view, then it starts becoming somewhat propagandistic, which this is IMO. Mann has always tried making what would normally be the villains in his films and makes them anti-heroes, so this is the perfect story for him where the bad guy is the protagonist. The major drawback is that he makes the ‘good guys’ the antagonists and as interesting as gum on your shoe.


It had a top-notch cast and  a pretty good crew (although I feel the director is a bit over-rated). From the leads to the bit parts, there are some fine actors in this movie. They just could have had more to do. The screen writer didn’t really develop any one character in this movie.  I didn’t  learn much about what made John Dillinger tick. When  mentions he had a father who was very hard on him, maybe even abusive, but you really don’t know that. The real Dillinger , after being shot during a bank robbery, stayed with his father to  recuperate. This would have been a good chance to follow up on what Dillinger had said about his father and find out about the reality of that relationship, but this movie isn’t really interested in that.  Mann seemed the most interested in the cool clothes, cars and tommy guns than actually telling an interesting story.


Johnny Depp played Dillinger pretty straight forwardly. At least I think he did. What goes on the screen is always determined by the directors, (producers) and  editors; a lot of people don’t really seem to be aware of that. . I never bought that he was John Dillinger in this. One long photoshoot of Depp and company dressed as gangsters and holding tommy-guns was what I felt like I was watching. Depp looked to be a little bored onscreen. He never plays overly emotional characters anyway. I can’t think of one movie where he has an emotional outburst…. He’s like the Anti-Cruise. In saying that, don’t think that I think that he did a bad job. I always blame the director. If you want to see good movies, FOLLOW THE DIRECTORS, NOT THE ACTORS.


Johnny looking like how I felt watching this movie...


Christian Bale played Melvin Purvis I think Bale’s Purvis character was supposed to be shown as a guy drowning in his work judging by the information given in the epilogue, but that story was never told within the context of what I watched. It was apparently was left out entirely or was on the cutting room floor (or still in the Avid or FCP program somewhere). You can’t cheat your audience. It’s either onscreen or it’s not. Bale was completely wasted in this, anyway. His character had the personality of a cinder block (much like his John Conner character, but with less enthusiasm). 

Ahhh, the lovely conspiracy theorist Marion Cotillard…., she's a smoker...., she's a smoker....

…was also wasted as Dillinger’s girl Billie Frechette. She was very good portraying a very flawed character in La Vie En Rose, but here she didn’t really have a lot to work with. The film makers tried very hard to make this into a quasi-love story (I’m sure for all of the female Johnny Depp fans),  but there wasn’t enough to really get involved with the characters. There were a lot of scenes that seemed like they were cut short, which is unusual for a Michael Mann movie (see Heat or Manhunter). He usually drags things out as much as humanly possible. While saying that, it still seemed like he took a 45 minute TV episode and stretched it into 2 plus hours. I don’t know how that happens.


But, hey, it’s still Marion Cotillard… I’m sure Marion clipping her toenails would be fun to watch. Maybe that would’ve made this movie a little better…. Dillinger had a lot of girl friends during his reign of crime. Why they chose to center on Billie and make her the love of his life is beyond me. Dillinger just got another girl after Billie got arrested (and served 2 years in prison), but in the movie they made it look like he was just escorting a girl he barely knew to the movies. I think Marion Cotillard in a prison movie might’ve been pretty cool, though…


More Cotillard!

 If you’re a card carrying member of the Depp fan club,  you’ll probably like this more than I did. I don’t think it would a terrible DVD/Blue Ray rental. I just need it be a little more interesting than what was presented. Two of five whatevers (still haven’t come up with my own rating system… drawing too much I guess). Whoo! That was a hard review to write…. 

Oh. One last thing.  (I think it was film critic Roger Ebert) that said that Depp looked so much like the real John Dillinger.


What do you think? Frankly, I’m not seeing it. I think Billy Bob Thornton might’ve made  a better Dillinger based on this picture (and the others I’ve seen).


6 Responses to “Public Enemies Mild Spoilers Review (2 of 5)”

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  2. […] Public Enemies Mild Spoilers Review (2 of 5) July 2009 4 comments […]

  3. Crash! Landen Says:

    Johnny Depp’s a decent actor. He sells tickets (ever since Pirates of the Carribean, anyway)…. Doesn’t necessarily make him right for the part, though….

  4. i think the reson jonny depp is playing his role in the movie is because dillinger was a verry witty man, and depp just has that witty look apon him.

  5. Crash! Landen Says:

    Probably couldn’t have done much worse. Mann’s movies are generally all over the place and ALWAYS are majorly flawed. Even Manhunter (which I really liked) had some problems like pacing and the awful montages with the overly 80s rock-guitar soundtrack….

    But it sounds like you thought about the same way I did about Public Enemies.

  6. scot phillipson Says:

    Not a good movie. I wanted to know some more about Dillinger. How he got started. His first crime.Why couldn’t they set up his robberies. Tell us where they happened. All the sudden they’re interviewing some woman who knows Dillinger. I diidn’t know what was going on. I thought it would be much different. I wish I could have directed this film.

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