2 hours, 20 minutes
2 hours, 20 minutes
IMDB's synopsis for Public Enemies reads "The Feds try to take down notorious American gangsters John Dillinger, Baby Face Nelson and Pretty Boy Floyd during a booming crime wave in the 1930s." Almost. Moreover, Dillinger (Johnny Depp, Blow) & Company are the primary targets of J. Edgar Hoover's (Billy Crudup, Mission: Impossible III) war on crime. His G-Men, led by Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale, Equilibrium), birddog every connection of Dillinger's until there's nowhere left to run.
I was drawn to the prospect of seeing a Michael Mann (Miami Vice) directed period action-drama hosting a cavalcade of starpower. To its credit, Public Enemies delivers exactly that, but little else. Depp's Dillinger is the focal point; the remaining "Most Wanted" being little more than a footnote in his notorious career. Henchmen and partners pass through his spotlight, but you can't tell one from another save the orange-haired "Red" (Jason Clarke, Death Race). The thugged-out performances by Stephen Dorff (Shadowboxer), Channing Tatum (Havoc), Giovanni Ribisi (Gone in Sixty Seconds), and Stephen Graham (Snatch) aren't bad, but their few seconds of screentime don't add up to a significant role.
Even the great white hunter Purvis is little more than an emotionless, straight-faced cameo by the second-billed Bale. It's quite an impressive feat for a director to pull in all this talent to essentially be day players. The only healthy-portioned role other than Depp's is that of Dillinger's lady friend, Billie Frechette, played by the lovely Marion Cotillard (Big Fish).
When Enemies isn't aflurry with cameos, guns fire a flurry of bullets across the thoroughfare. Cars give moderately speedy chases (it IS the 30's) and yet the only lasting impression any of it leaves is the numbness in my ass. Despite Depp and Cotillard's rousing performances, the languid minutes that pass in this largely forgettable film are the real public enemies.