Monday, July 6, 2009

Public Enemies (Movie) Review

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.
Overall, despite its 2 hours and 21 minutes run time, Public Enemies is a compelling watch. It has action, drama, romance, big guns, and "fast" cars - all the primary ingredients for a film success in this day and age. And let's face it; this movie does take something historical and turn it into an entertaining adventure.

Now, I'm not too clear on the exact logistics of how the events proceeded historically, but I have heard that regarding Dillinger and Purvis, etc., the movie remains rather true to fact. However, I did have a qualm with the setting - this took place during the depression, a time of desperation and poverty. Yeah, there was maybe one homeless person throughout the whole movie. A lot of shiny new cars and snazzy clothes though. The tone and mood could have been set a little more realistically.

Johnny Depp - wow! Now, a lot of viewers do go into this movie with high expectations for Depp, but in spite of all that, he does not disappoint. (Any one else notice the uncanny coincidence of J.D. - J.D. : Johnny Depp - John Dillinger?) Depp's performance was raw, gritty, and more importantly, real. He took the persona, the legacy, left behind, and then characterized that from scratch to create Dillinger for the screen.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Christian Bale. Considering he was pretty awesome in Dark Knight, one would've expected at least a decent performance here. But alas, the accent - trying to affect the accent of the time period - just did not work well on Bale here. In fact, it was probably detrimental. Performance otherwise may have been decent, or it may have been simply mediocre; it was hard to get past snickering, and overall, it didn't make a lasting impression.

As for Marion Cotillard, I will say that I had started out a little worried. Was this going to be a typical weak "damsel-in-distress" female character? Bah humbug. But when it came down to acting, when raw emotion was needed, Cotillard delivered. Raw, brave, slightly sinister. Impressive. The rest of the supporting cast filled out the characterizations nicely.

The plot, well, for the most part as this is a historical piece had to stay true to fact. The romance moved a bit quick in the beginning for my tastes, scared me for a moment that it might be reminiscent of the disaster that was Jumper but luckily Public Enemies redeemed itself as the film progressed. It did bother me a little that it ended off on a bit of a "tragic romance" motif, which differed greatly in tone from the way that the movie had started off. The cinematography had weak moments as well (... dude, blurring half the screen out showing some guy's bald head is not artistically innovative).

To be frank, we, society as a whole, has become somewhat desensetized towards violence and guns and such, what with frequent exposure in movies and television and video games and the like. We can "kill" in games and find a thrill. We can view these things in fictionalized accounts without feeling as much as we should. Public Enemies made the shootings a little more real, a little more raw. The deaths felt more shocking, more deep, than what one might've originally expected from Hollywood. There was definitely a fair bit of flinching involved.

With great acting, historical aspects, and an action-packed plotline, Public Enemies is definitely something different and innovative.

1 comment:

BrittLit said...

I think I'll definitely have to watch this.

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