Sunday 5 July 2009

Public Enemy - Review

Michael Mann does shoot-outs like no one else and the gun play in this movie is superb. Set in the 1930's during the Great Depression the film evokes the period well although the poverty of the time is largely overlooked.

John Dillinger was Public Enemy Number One and he's brought to life by Johnny Depp in one of his finest performances to date.

This is just a snap shot of Dillinger's life with much of his history omitted, focusing on the period after he broke his gang out of jail in 1933. Much of the facts are inaccurate but the film does a good job of capturing the anti-hero appeal of Dillinger's crime spree.

The first half hour of the movie left me cold and the sound and editing left a lot to be desired but once you're past that hurdle the film kicks into gear and you start to like Depp's Dillinger and his live for today ethic.

Christian Bale plays Melvin Purvis the man charged by J. Edgar Hoover with taking Dillinger down. Bale is Bale but you never see enough of the character to feel much about him. Mann clearly want a play off between his two leads but it never hits the heights of Heat largely because Depp gets all the charismatic moments. As a result you end up rooting for Dillinger, rather than rooting for them both.

So not flawless then. But the last hour is an hours worth of great film making and the soundtrack is a perfect score to the action throughout.

Mann does Tommy Guns. And their rat tat tat help to bring the end of Dillinger's story to life in all it's ill gotten glory. The ultimate 1930's cops and robbers movie for sure.



  1. I checked out imdb and it appears that the sound thing was a major problem for everyone. Took a little gloss off the finished product but i still felt it was a solid film.
    Agree with you on the Bale thing- He just wasn't in the film enough. Billy Crudup was very good though.

  2. Just felt that it was a bit of a missed opportunity to build up a Heat style Cop/Robber thing. Maybe that's what Mann wanted to avoid?

  3. He knew he'd get the Heat comparison and so set out to make it a different kind of film. It was more a Dillinger mini biography than a cops and robbers film

  4. Yeah I think you're right. Feel a bit for Bale though, was a bit one dimensional... until the credits.

  5. For once, Bale was out-acted. It wasn't his fault - he had to make the best of what he was given.. which wasn't much

  6. I'm gonna copy my reply from AT on the facebook page after he asked what was different historically and generally disagreed with what I said about the film.

    'Lots of things played out quite differently to how they do in the film. It's artistic license though and I'm not criticising that in any way, the film is better for it.
    Equally I get that he didn't want the Heat comparison but frankly that's inevitable and by downplaying Bale's character he misses an opportunity to build more tension, and viewer empathy with that character. Hoover's role is important and I get making that key, but if Mann is supposed to be an American auteur film director then he shouldn't feel the need to cast a Hollywood leading man in what is essentially a down graded role for Bale.

    However I am firmly of the opinion that this is more a reflection on Hollywood today than any thing that can be levelled at Mann. Unfortunately not enough people will go and see a film because of who directs it any more, they go to see it because of who's in it.


  7. "For once, Bale was out-acted"

    Dark Knight?!?!?!?!