John Dillinger can blow through a bank in minutes, fall in love in seconds but will take as much time as needed to embarrass the local law enforcement.
In the film Public Enemies, we follow the life of John Dillinger, a bank robber that is just trying to live every moment as fast as he can because he never knows when it will end. The person that wants this end to come sooner than later is Melvin Purvis the head of the Dillinger task-force. Purvis is fresh off the apprehension and killing of Pretty Boy Floyd and is thought of as a lead mind when it comes to bringing down the the most wanted of the most wanted.
Purvis has a cold unsettling feel about him and at times leaves you wondering about the nightmares that must keep him up at night. Christian Bale’s portrayal of Purvis is so spot on that even a look in to his eyes lets you know what he is thinking. Bale makes Purvis look fearless but, with a heart that at times leaves you wondering who to route for. Though Purvis is sharp and calculating he is no match for Dillinger, who with the help of Purvis’ thoughtless officers, leaves the task-force head looking as equally thoughtless.
The sly and cunning Dillinger is played by Johnny Depp with ease, giving you the feeling that he has always been Dillinger. There is just something about Depp’s ability to step so far into a character that leaves you thinking that we will never see someone of his caliber ever again. With that said, in ways Dillinger and Depp are the same. They are both the masters of their craft and the only thing that can bring them down would be their co-workers and for this movie’s sake, Depp has some stellar co-stars.
There are so many good performances in this film that even the smaller roles seem to stick out, but for me it would be a shame not to mention Marion Cotillard’s portrayal of Billie, a poor coat girl that Dillinger almost instantly falls in love with. I don’t know if it is Dillinger’s obsession with being liked that attracts him to Billie, as she left him alone after he tells her to wait for him, or the charm of Cotillard’s performance. Either way this poor little coat girl is loveable right from the start.
With some of the best acting I’ve seen all summer, I really can only think of one thing that hurts this film and that is the decision of Michael Mann to shoot a major portion of the film in a hand-held first-person like perspective, also leaving the film with a thin almost non-existent soundtrack. Instead Mann, let the the gun blasts be their own ambiance and brought you face to face with the shooter as thier gun blasts light up a room. At first I must admit, I was taken back by this, but as the film played on I felt like it brought me right into the world of Dillinger and made the shoot out scenes that much more intense and realistic. Public Enemies has to be Mann’s best work since Heat and may even rival that. The risky decision to stray away from a more classic way to view a movie may hurt Mann come Oscar time but in no way should that leave this film in the forgotten category.
I give Pubic Enemies 5 “tommy guns” out of 5
By Ryan Davis