Review: Public Enemies (2009)

Public Enemies (2009)

Directed by: Michael Mann | 140 minutes | biography, drama, history, crime | Actors: Johnny Depp, Christian Bale, Channing Tatum, Marion Cotillard, Giovanni Ribisi, Stephen Graham, Billy Crudup, Stephen Dorff, Emilie de Ravin, Leelee Sobieski, Rory Cochrane, David Wenham, Lili Taylor, John Ortiz, Carey Mulligan, Shawn Hatosy Stephen Lang, Matt Craven, Branka Katic, James Russo, Luce Rains, Peter Gerety, Spencer Garrett, Jason Clarke, Christian Stolte, Joe DeVito, John Michael Bolger, Emily Margaret Heitzer, Jennifer Badger, Michael Vieau, Rebecca Spence, Angelina Lyubomirova , Don Frye, Suzy Brack, John Hoogenakker, Joseph Luis Caballero, Michael Bentt, Alan Wilder, Tracey Ruggiero, Tommy Bartlett, Geoffrey Cantor, Chandler Williams, Marc Grapey, Adam Mucci, Guy Van Swearingen, Carl Paoli, Suzanne Prescott, Richard Short Rick Uecker, Bill Camp, Nancy McCrumb, Randy Ryan, Kurt Naebig, John Lister, Joseph Mazurk, Gareth Saxe, William Nero Jr., Daniel Maldonado, Kris Wolff, Madison Dirks, Jim Carrane, Jeff Still, Britt Barrett, Shanyn Leigh , John Scherp, Jack Hey nry Richardson, John Fenner Mays

It could have been so beautiful. A compelling, in-depth, both hard and emotionally penetrating gangster film about a real period in American history, with superstar Johnny Depp in the lead role and super director Michael Mann behind the camera. Adding popular actor Christian Bale as Depp’s nemesis, a tragic love story as the basis, and the ability to add parallels to the current socio-political situation, ‘Public Enemies’ could have become a modern classic. But the whole thing is strangely flat and hardly manages to create involvement or arouse enthusiasm. It’s unclear what exactly Mann’s main reason for directing this movie was, but little really works well. Only the shootouts are, as usual in Mann’s films, exciting and compelling, and Marion Cotillard’s Billie Frechette is about the only character that leaves a lasting impression.

One of the biggest reasons for the film’s relative ineffectiveness is Johnny Depp’s interpretation of the main character John Dillinger. It’s painful to admit, but Depp, despite his natural charm, charisma, and coolness, doesn’t seem to be the right person for the role. On the one hand, he does not manage to highlight the rawness of the character enough – he is above all a Don Juan with a gun in his hands – and on the other, the way in which he plays his character, perhaps on Mann’s advice, is too self-conscious and distant in order to develop a bond with him. This has several negative effects. Apparently, and as some scenes in the film must also show, Dillinger acted like a Robin Hood by only robbing the banks – which were responsible for the economic crisis the country was in – and letting people take their money. but the impact on the people affected by the crisis and now idolizing Dillinger is almost nowhere investigated. Dillinger himself does not seem to really care about the fate of the population but mainly gets a kick out of the popularity he enjoys. And this seems to be Mann’s choice as well. When Dillinger is hauled in in a police car and cheered on by people along the road, Mann doesn’t point his camera at the people, but keeps his eyes on Dillinger in the car, who observes everything and gets a smug smile on his face. It would have been interesting and topical to show the public effects of this benefactor and the financial malaise, but Mann hardly seems interested in this. It’s all about the cool Dillinger, his witty dialogue, and the inimitable way in which he robs banks. Now this focus on Dillinger shouldn’t have been a problem if his main relationships—those with his girlfriend Billie and his foe Melvin Purvis—had only had a palpable tension, which sadly isn’t the case now. A perfect choice for Billie, Marion Cotillard almost sells the relationship with her emotive looks, and some scenes – including a brave verbal confrontation with a cop who nearly beats her to a pulp during an interrogation – almost makes the film almost too much. rescue, but Depp’s emotions don’t arrive. On paper, he’s the perfect dark prince and his brown eyes, black locks, and half smile should theoretically make any woman’s knees buckle, but his charm is artificial. He never really shows himself in a vulnerable way to Billie and always seems above all interested in preserving his image. That can be a choice, of course, but since Mann clearly does portray the relationship with Billie as romantic, and heart-pounding, it can only be seen as a flawed characterization. Billie Holiday’s melancholy music and some scenes in which Dillinger stares at Billie’s (Frechette) photo do little to compensate. Fortunately, Billie’s fascination with Dillinger is understandable, because she is a poor girl who has experienced nothing in her life and would love to be drawn into an adventurous life by a charming, decisive man. However, this side could have been more elaborated. Fortunately, Cotillard takes her somewhat limited role to a higher level through her involved interpretation. She and Depp do have some memorable scenes together, the most fun of which is the one in which Dillinger visits Billie at work as a wardrobe lady and manages to convince her in a rather pushy way to go with him right away and become his girlfriend.

The lack of necessary chemistry between Dillinger and Billie could have been compensated for by the equally important male relationship between Dillinger and his pursuer, FBI agent Purvis. After all, this kind of explosive, intense relationship is what fuels most of Mann’s films, from ‘The Insider’ to ‘Heat’ and from ‘Collateral’ to ‘Miami Vice’. But this element also turns out to be far too tame in ‘Public Enemies’. Not only is Bale’s portrayal very introverted and, as in the case of Dillinger, little known to the viewer about his character, his confrontations with Depp are sparse and not very exciting or enlightening. It’s equally interesting when they see and speak on opposite sides of prison bars, but far more than any friction from Dillinger’s cocky demeanor and his stinging remark that it must hurt Purvis to keep seeing the eyes of his recently shot buddy. , it’s not coming. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as an interesting relationship like Pacino and De Niro had in ‘Heat’, in which both the cat-and-mouse game was exciting and the similarities between the two men fascinated. Yet the chases and confrontations between Purvis and his agents on the one hand and Dillinger and his mates on the other are very exciting and often breathtaking. There is a nail-biting shootout in the middle of the street where the viewer almost gets a first person view as the gangsters shoot their enemies behind windows in apartment buildings, like a shooting in a Western. Also an attack on a hut in the forest in the dark and a long chase in the forest, both by foot and by car, is a feast. You might suspect Mann is just looking for an excuse to film some cool shootouts, with the bonus of classic cars, locations, outfits, and weapons in this movie. In addition, the use of digital (HD) video material instead of film offers him more flexibility and, for example, the possibility to capture scenes in the dark without problems and in great detail.

However, digital video creates a specific look that will not appeal to everyone. It gives a more direct effect to camera movements and looks cooler than film, and for many it will be less attractive. Incidentally, Mann’s choice to shoot the film in the widest aspect ratio is somewhat odd, as half of the film consists of close-ups. But even if a little more overview would sometimes have been desirable, filming the characters so close to the skin and over the shoulder often provides an increased intensity and intimacy. Mann tries to create timeless, classic moments in some scenes, such as when Dillinger goes to the cinema in the final act of the film to watch “Manhattan Melodrama” and, through a dynamic montage made clear to the viewer, he mirrors himself and Billie to actors Cary Grant and Myrna Loy. Or the scene in which he coolly walks into the Chicago police station to look at his own newspaper clippings on the wall and even dares to ask the officers about the status of the baseball game they are following on the radio. They are certainly entertaining or interesting moments, but it all comes across, like Dillinger’s character and the film as a whole, just a little too constructed.

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