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July 5, 2009
Review - " Public Enemies "  - (in Theaters) By Roland Hansen
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Johnny Depp - Public Enemy
Public Enemies
Directed by Michael Mann
Starring: Johnny Depp, Christian Bale, Marion Cotillard

With "Public Enemies," all the pieces would seem to be in place for an
epic gangster drama: director Michael Mann, who has an affinity for
complicated criminals; stars Johnny Depp and Christian Bale, who are
famous for immersing themselves in their roles; and a thrilling true story
of brazen bank robbers on the run.

Trouble is, "Public Enemies" feels rather stagnant. It looks terrific with its
period details and costumes, rich production values and striking high-
definition cinematography. Crisp, blue Midwestern skies pop off the
screen and nighttime chases and shootouts have an eerie theatricality
about them. But until the final third, the film maintains a low-key,slow
(sometimes very slow) steady pace when it should be percolating with
unbearable suspense.

Dillinger was fascinating not just as a daring criminal but as the hero he
became for regular people, folks who blamed the banks for their
financial troubles during the Depression. Dillinger robbed those very
institutions, which felt to them like an act of vigilante justice. But nowhere
in "Public Enemies" will you find that sentiment explored or even hinted
at in a cursory way. Dillinger is famous here, of course — he's Public
Enemy No. 1, hence the title — but there's little sense of his public
perception, not much context for his notoriety. Mann also doesn't really
depict the poverty or desperation of the time, Dillinger usually spends time in cars, banks and glamorous haunts with slick
cohorts. He's more like a charming guy committing questionable acts.

Mann romanticizes him, rather than presenting a complete picture including whatever wildness or darkness might have
existed inside him and driven him. Depp and Bale are trademark names for a reason, and their performances are usually
enough to tip the scales in their favor. Bale is getting good at playing men icily devoted to the pursuit of a single object,
regardless of cost: Purvis’ slow acceptance of the greater lengths he’s willing to go to just to find Dillinger are an easy mirror
of Bale’s work as Bruce Wayne in Christopher Nolan’s Batman films, which is a good thing. Depp has a slightly tougher time
finding the roots of Dillinger, especially since Mann seems more focused on creating a good movie and not on filling it with
interesting people, but he’s still effortlessly charming and manages to convey Dillinger’s rightful paranoia as his career
evading the law grows longer and more dangerous each day.

In Depp's hands, Dillinger comes off as sexy and dangerous — the disarmingly straightforward way he sweeps coat-check
girl Billie Frechette (Marion Cotillard) off her feet and persuades her to be his girlfriend is pretty irresistible. (With her
expressive features and delicate frame, Cotillard looks just right for the time.) And the director shoots Depp in close-ups
that accentuate the actor's handsome features — those warm, brown eyes, sharp cheekbones and soft lips — and verge on

Bale also gets this kind of affectionate treatment as
Melvin Purvis, the rising FBI agent charged with
bringing Dillinger down (Billy Crudup has some
amusing moments as J. Edgar Hoover, Purvis' boss,
who comes across as self-serious and slightly
buffoonish.) Purvis is stoic, principled and determined
but not exactly humanized; neither are the members
of his posse, who are essentially interchangeable with
the exception of Stephen Lang as a veteran lawman
who's subtly powerful in the film's final scene. That
moment alone makes you wish the whole movie had
been as compelling.

At 2 hours and 20 minutes "Public Enemies" drags.
I found myself more than once looking at my watch
wondering "When is this thing is going to get over
already!" They could have (and should have) cut an
hour off the runtime, quickened up the pacing and
moved the film along.
Christian Bale - Public Enemy