Thursday, 30 July 2009

Public Enemies: Movie Review

Public Enemies: Movie Review

Rating: 6/10
Cast: Johnny Depp, Christian Bale, Marion Cotillard, Billy Crudup, Stephen Dorff
Director: Michael Mann
Guns, girls and gangsters.
You can't really go wrong with a mix like that - and yet somehow, this latest outing from director Michael Mann, ever so-slightly wrong foots itself.
The year is 1933, and John Dillinger (a suave self assured Johnny Depp) is taking on the mantle as the people's Robin Hood, robbing banks and generally raising hell as Public Enemy No 1.
Idolised by the people, and revered among the criminal fraternity, things start to change for Dillinger with the formation of the Federal Bureau of Investigation under J Edgar Hoover.
Hoover gives the job of catching Dillinger to FBI Agent Melvin Purvis (a slightly muted Christian Bale) but as Dillinger's popularity soars and the net gets tighter, the stakes are raised in this game of cat and mouse.
Public Enemies looks stunning - the recreation of 1930s Depression era America is superb; right down to the suits, stylish hats and crackle-popping of the Tommy Guns, there's much to admire in the scenery.
But it's just in the execution of this film that it feels ever so slightly hollow - Depp is fantastic as Dillinger and has the right swagger, charisma and charm to pull off the character of someone who modeled themselves on Clark Gable and was loved by those who were suffering in America's Depression.
Depp is the perfect Dillinger - his relationship with Billie Frechette (the ever illuminating Marion Cotillard) is raw and real - based on truth and honesty, their brief affair shows a different side to Dillinger as he tried to protect her and her honour at all times.
Bale however, is a little underused - and as a result, I didn't feel Purvis' torment over his role in the FBI - which is a real shame.
I think in many ways, Public Enemies is the antidote to a winter of blockbusters which has been in your face action - be it the robots of Transformers or the general bubble gum of Ice Age 3 and Hannah Montana.
It's a slow burner in many places and appears to have other plots bubbling away in the background - be it the politics of the formation of the FBI or the continuing misogynist ways of the American public - but the trouble is they're too subtle and too fleeting to pick up on.
However, it's great to see Michael Mann directing - no-one does characters meeting for the first time like this director (remember the scene in Heat?)- perhaps the greatest scene of the film is when Purvis and Dillinger meet, separated by jail bars. The only action comes from the piercing glares of the eyes as when they talk, their mouths are obscured by the prison cell.
It's these moments - along with the swirling gliding camera work which ducks and moves around during the prison breaks and gun fights - that I really wanted more of during Public Enemies.

Instead I'm left slightly wanting and underwhelmed.

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