generic title for one of the most generic, forgettable biopics in recent
memory. I expected so much more from director Michael Mann, who in
films like Manhunter, The Last of the Mohicans and The Insider, has
shown movie audiences he knows a thing or two about constructing a taut
drama. How then could a story as ripe with cinematic potential as that
of 1930ís American gangster and folk anti-hero John Dillinger be so
is absolutely nothing to learn about Dillinger here that wouldnít be
more interesting viewed on the History Channel or read off Wikipedia.
What little background we get on the gangster is blurted out by
Dillinger in a clumsy bit of exposition. Thereís no clue as to why he
does what he does outside of being good at it. Why does he let the bank
customers keep their cash? Why does he care? Was there any reason
besides his being good-looking that people regarded him as some kind of
movie star? No, thereíll be no digging into anyoneís psyche here,
folks, just a lazy attempt at making a 1930ís-style crime flick in the
mould of William Wellman, Mervyn LeRoy or Raoul Walsh. One thing I wish
Mann studied harder from that school was pacing; dry as a bone and
utterly without highs or lows to punctuate any of the two and a half
hour running time, Public Enemies is one long flatline. There is one
and only one scene of post-modern inspiration and it doesnít arrive
until the two hour mark, when the most wanted gangster in America takes
a leisurely stroll through the headquarters of the FBI squad dedicated
to his capture.
paper, Public Enemies sounded like dream casting, Johnny Depp as the
charismatic bank robber, Christian Bale as his Ahab, FBI agent Melvin
Purvis, and Oscar winner Marion Cotillard as Dillingerís galpal, Billie
Frechette. Depp as per usual, turns in an ace performance and looks
plenty sharp in the 1930ís suits and fedoras, but even his formidable
charm cannot move the mountain of utter flatness that is this script.
Even the revered Bale looks bored out of his mind and acts accordingly,
giving a phoned-in reading worse than anything Iíve ever seen from him.
The only sparks in the entire production come from Stephen Graham as
the psychotic Baby Face Nelson and Stephen Lang as Purvisí agent,
Charles Winstead, a tightly wound coil of divine retribution you keep
waiting to be unleashed, but almost as if the buildup of the character
had simply been forgotten, he never gets the chance. A deliciously oily
Billy Crudup is a wry hoot as the pretentious, grasping J. Edgar Hoover,
whose zeal at promoting and publicising his newly formed Federal Bureau
of Investigation wonít be quelled by the prospect of a little illegal
police procedure or even torture. Even these brief sparks of light
cannot illuminate the utter dreariness permeating the rest of the film.
waste of an appealing cast and the life story of one of the most
glamorous American figures of the last hundred years. A life story that
should have allowed Johnny Depp to dig into his scenes with a knife and
fork is a hollow, listless shell of a film with nothing but the name
power and valiant efforts of its actors to recommend it.
Lady Miz Diva
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