Movie Review: Public Enemies

Michael Mann returns to the genre what put him on the map; gritty crime dramas.

The man who created Miami Vice and is highly-acclaimed for his action thriller HEAT brings back some heat of his own.

This time the crime drama is based on the life of notorious bank robber John Dillinger, who became America’s Most Wanted in the 1930s. Dillinger went on a crime spree that not only made the government go after him but the mob as well. As Frank Nitti put it, “he’s bad for business.”

There have been movies about John Dillinger before like Warren Oates in the now classic Dillinger from 1973. That movie would probably be remembered more as a classic if it  Bonnie & Clyde hadn’t been released before it. Mark Harmon even tried being Dillinger in 1991 in a 1991 TV movie but it was just sad.

Now we come to Johnny Depp’s turn. Depp is quite enthralling playing the legendary gangster but it is the film around him and the liberties it takes that bugged me.

The film chronicles Dillinger’s rise and fall and it has the love story between Dillinger and a coat check girl Billie Frechette (played by French Oscar winner Marion Cotillard) woven into it.

I felt there was any chemistry between Depp and Cotillard even though both were good and tried to be seductive. Its like you could feel everytime the camera would break from them they would dash off to their dressing rooms. I also understand that the story of Billie was quite expanded for this film and a great romance, as supposedly seen here, never existed. If I believed it existed in the context of the story then I would say, screw the facts but it just doesnt work.

I also have to say that Mann’s camera work here is probably one of the worst I have seen in his career. The shaky cam just doesnt work at all in this picture. Why in god’s name do you need a shaky cam when two people or having dinner or walking a corridor. I agree that shaky cam works when people are being riddled with bullets or scared out of their minds but just shoot the movie would you!

I have to admit I am not a big fan of Michael Mann and his overlong style of filmmaking. But when you have a night shootout in a forest that lasts 30 minutes and some sections of it look like The Blair Witch Project, I get a little frustrated. Since this film has already taken some liberties with its true depiction of events, “light the forest!” Show us who is killing who, why some characters die, give us the drama we need to make us want to wait forever to see what happens!

Public Enemies to me was a frustrating movie. It could have been a classic with the cast Mann had assembled. It also could have been his best movie since HEAT. Sad to say, it ain’t.

2.5 out of 5

So Says the Soothsayer

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