The Flick Chicks

Judy Thorburn's Movie Reviews

Public Enemies

Submit to DeliciousSubmit to DiggSubmit to FacebookSubmit to Google BookmarksSubmit to StumbleuponSubmit to TechnoratiSubmit to TwitterSubmit to LinkedIn

Flick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Jacqueline MonahanFlick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Jacqueline MonahanFlick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Jacqueline MonahanFlick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Jacqueline MonahanFlick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Jacqueline Monahan Judy Thorburn

Las Vegas Tribune - http://www.lasvegastribune.com
Las Vegas Round The Clock
- ht
tp://www.lasvegasroundheclock.com
The Women Film Critics Circle - http://www.wfcc.wordpress.com
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
">
kreatia@
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Flick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha ChemplavilFlick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha ChemplavilFlick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha ChemplavilFlick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha ChemplavilFlick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha Chemplavil

Public Enemies – The Life and Crimes of John Dillinger

Decades before domestic and foreign terrorists were labeled America’s public enemy #1, gangsters were the prime targets of law enforcement.  As history tells it, John Dillinger was just one of the many notorious machine gun wielding gangsters who carried out a wave of bank robberies and killings during the 1930’s, and the feds were determined to bring them to justice.  Through the years, at least three movies have been made about the infamous Dillinger, with filmmaker Michael Mann’s Public Enemies being the latest, a revisionist version based on Bryan Burrough’s book of the same name.
 
Though titled Public Enemies, the central character is John Dillinger with the story focusing on the last few years of his life, when he had a love affair and went on a crime spree that had him captured and jailed on several occasions.  Yet, he was able to break free and continue robbing banks and engaging in bloody shootouts, before meeting his fate.
 
For the ever charismatic Johnny Depp, playing John Dillinger is a change of pace from his portrayal of oddball, over the top characters (Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood, Captain Jack Sparrow, Sweeney Todd, to name a few). This time in a cool and more internalized (but I wouldn’t say his best) performance Depp plays Dillinger as a cocky, confident, risk taking thug who thought he can get away with anything.

It was the Depression Era of the 1930’s and during those hard times the banks were hated by the average folk struggling to make ends meet (sounds topical) and the dapper, handsome bank robber was considered somewhat of a folk hero, or rock star of that period.

Dillinger’s counterpart was top G-man Melvin Purvis (a convincing Christian Bale, making the most of his limited screen time) determined to track down and capture the outlaw after been given the assignment by his boss J. Edgar Hoover (a miscast, bloated looking Billy Crudup) head of the fledging FBI. The story develops as a less than compelling cat and mouse chase with Dillinger’s faithful lover, Billie Frechette (the lovely Marion Cotillard, Oscar winner for La Vie En Rose) and several other gangster thugs from the 1930’s era entwined in Dillinger’s life of crime.

Among the supporting roles as Dillinger’s fellow gangster thugs are Giovanni Rubisi as Alvin Karpis, Stephen Dorff as Homer Van Meter, David Wehman as Harry Pierpont, and Bill Camp as Frank Nitti.  If you blink, you might miss rising star Channing Tatum, unrecognizable as Pretty Boy Floyd.  Only Stephen Graham is given enough screen time to make his mark as gun happy, psycho killer, Baby Face Nelson. In addition, totally wasted in cameos are Lilli Taylor and Leelee Sobieski.

America’s love affair with gangsters and movie bad boys in general is nothing new, but Public Enemies fails to be a satisfying gangster film that draws you in emotionally as it falls short in several elements including real suspense and a lack of character development. For instance, if we didn’t know that the story is set during the Depression there are no visible, tell tale signs such as soup kitchens or street beggars,  just fashionably dressed people strolling around or seen enjoying themselves in nightclubs and in movies.

On a technical level, cinematographer Dante Spinotti shot the movie with a high definition digital camera and Mann seemed more focused on him capturing the clear and crisp action by employing the cinema verite method to create the feeling that you are right there, looking over a shoulder, in the middle of what is going on. Sometimes it works effectively, like in the well executed shoot out scenes to heighten the excitement, while at other times, the shaky camera and way too close, facial close-ups are annoying and distracting.

Another problem is with the story’s historical inaccuracies.  As I mentioned in the beginning of this review, this is Michael Mann’s revisionist version of Dillinger’s real life exploits. In other words Dillinger’s story has been Hollywoodized at the discretion of the filmmaker and a great deal of creative license was utilized in the making.  For instance, Evelyn “Billie” Frechette wasn’t as innocent as depicted.  In Public Enemies, Billie is a cliché, a woman who seems disinterested in Dillinger but is soon swept off her feet after he buys her a fur coat and promises to protect her. As such, their love affair carries no emotional weight.

In reality, more than just a pretty check out girl at a nightclub, Billie performed as a stripper, had various lovers, and before meeting Dillinger was married to another hoodlum who was sent to prison.

I would advise those interested in knowing about the “true” life exploits of John Dillinger and his fellow public enemies of the 1930’s era to go to the library or google their names.

I had high expectations for Public Enemies and thought it would be a fabulous Depression era gangster film on the level of the Untouchables or Bonnie and Clyde. It is an OK film but not a great piece of cinema, which is disappointing since it had the potential considering its stellar cast, a few brilliant scenes, and splendid costume and production design.

At one point Dillinger tells Billie that the feds can’t catch him “because they aren’t fast enough, tough enough or smart enough”.  He could have very well been speaking about this film.