Saturday, July 4, 2009

Public Enemies. B+


Despite the fact that Michael Mann's elaborate 'Public Enemies' is a good movie, it's disappointing to think that it's stuck in the middle of being a classic and a dud. When expectations are so high for a film, I would rather have it either be extremely great or extremely dismal. The fact that it's neither of these is actually a little disheartening, because it doesn't allow me to go to an extreme about how good it was or how bad it was. I'm merely stuck between the two, still feeling slightly uncertain about the movie. For those of you who don't know, 'Public Enemies' tells the true story of legendary bank robber John Dillinger (Johnny Depp) as he flirts with his girl Billie (Marion Cotilard) and is pursued by special agent Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale). The first thing that comes to mind when talking about the film is Depp's work, which, in its bizarre subtleness, becomes nearly entrancing. Depp makes Dillinger intriguing, interesting, humorous, and almost a hero. Not so bright however is Christian Bale's mundane turn as Purvis. Though Dillinger makes for a fascinating character, he can't carry the movie alone. Bale's job is to come in and provide a dual character intrigue, but instead he's just sort of there as an invisible presence, not really doing anything but working. We don't really find out anything about his personal life or true feelings. He seems more like a robot than a human. Some of this might be due to Christian Bale's skills, which I think are very overrated. Overall, I think there simply isn't enough depth in the pretty basic narrative. It's pretty much a repeat of actions, as Dillinger runs, rob banks, runs some more (though mixed in are some brilliant dialogues between Dillinger and Billie). When the movie ended, I didn't feel like it had given me very much to think about, and I didn't feel as entranced as I hoped I would. On the other hand, there is a lot to love in this movie, especially on the visual side. As expected, we truly feel like we've been thrown back into the 30's, as the gorgeous images really begin to mount up throughout the 140 minutes running time. Also, there are some awesome gun battles that fit the definition of 'mind-blowing' quite easily. I left 'Public Enemies' feeling good about it, and it has remained in my psyche since then, meaning that it had some sort of effect on me. But unfortunately, the effect wasn't powerful enough, as this beautiful movie didn't quite make the cut with some of the other classic gangster movies of the past. If you still don't quite understand why I didn't love this movie, then try watching it, and then go see 'The Assassination of Jesse James' and compare the emotional impact of each. 'Public Enemies' simply doesn't give you all that much to think about. Except those awesome Tommy Gun battles.

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