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Movie Review: "Public Enemies"

Public Enemies



Reviewed by: John Devore

Directed by: Michael Mann

The Skinny: It's 1933, America has its Great Depression on, and gentlemen bank robbers are Tommy Gun-toting folk heroes in this glossy, epic crime saga. Directed by Michael Mann (the thinking man's Michael Bay,) Public Enemies stars Johnny Depp as legendary Robin Hood John Dillinger, and Christian Bale as his nemesis, G-man Melvin Purvis. The story tracks Dillinger's brief real life rise and fall, from media darling to, wait, hold on—TURBO SPOILER—a bullet-riddled corpse, care of a nascent FBI.

The Good: Lots of Tommy Guns go rat-a-tat-tat. Lots of cars go vroom, vroom. And lots of cops and robbers do both aformentioned things alot, and it's often times thrilling. Christian Bale makes up for a confused performance in Terminator Salvation as G-man who can only uphold the law by nearly breaking it. And his performance is mercifully lacking his usual, and bizarre, angry, husky drag queen voice.

The Bad: Michael Mann can make a hell of a crackling action movie about flawed men, both inside and outside the law, like in Heat. He can also make a mindbogglingly boring and self-indulgent movie with the same theme, like in Miami Vice. Public Enemies falls squarely in the latter category: the movie is a patience-testing two and a half hours, it's padded with character relationships that are at best overly sentimental, at worst lacking in credibility, and even the action scenes are uneven. Sometimes they crackle, sometimes they're just gun barrels blaring. Johnny Depp is rarely off-mark as an actor, but his restrained, romanticized Dillinger isn't believable as a tragic character. And since when did gangsters wear eye make up?

Tantalizing Tidbits: The movie is chock full of era-specific references to characters who actually populated a mythic era that inspired classic movies like Bonnie & Clyde and The Untouchables.

Theater, DVD, or TNT in five years: TNT, mos def.