Thursday, July 9, 2009

A Quickie: Public Enemies

Public Enemies

Release: 07.01.09
Rated R
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.

Large Association of Movie Blogs


  1. From my experience, I found this film okay and I don't expect it to be a prize contender at the next Oscars. Channing Tatum and Giovanni Ribisi (and many others) almost went unnoticed by me. As for Stephen Graham (Baby Face Nelson), he wasn't that bad in playing a criminal who can look normal (i.e. eating a soup while the police is visiting him) and display, when the circumstances demand it, his psychopathy.

    The problem that I had is that the film didn't really establish a link between many people's (at that time) adulation of Dillinger and their feelings during the Depression. In fact, the film could have shown that many people felt robbed by banks, corporations or even the government. However, although it's entertaining, it only focused on Dillinger's exploits and the gunfights.

  2. Rats! There's another movie ticket I don't have to buy.

  3. Wow, you two win the award for quickest response to a post!

    @Anh Knoi Do- I didn't get into it since I was trying to keep my post short, but for days after viewing I tried to decipher similarities b/w Mann's Dillinger and the current financial crisis or even citizens' distrust at the previous administration's shady dealings. I finally threw up my hands when I realized there wasn't anything beneath the surface. If there was, it went over my head!

    @Friend Mouse- At this rate, what movie will be the next movie you pay to see in theaters?

  4. I was not that impressed with the film either but there were good moments sprinkled throughout. I probably will not sit through the entire film again.

  5. It'll probably be one of those films where, if it's on TV, I'll watch a half hour or so for those good parts, but I'd never purposely rent it for a second viewing.

  6. Mann draws a sprawling cast together with a myriad of period details that give an authentic sheen, without letting the audience get confused in the sea of historic information. Check out my review, when you can! Nice Review!