Movie Reviewed: Public Enemies
Directed By: Michael Mann
Starring: Johnny Depp, Christian Bale and Marion Cotillard
Runtime: 143 Min (Approx)
Studio: Universal Pictures
Celebrity crooks are hard to find in the 21st Century. Sure we gawk at the bad guys, and swallow up graphic photos and details about their dastardly deeds. But we don’t celebrate or cheer for criminals like we used to for Robinhood or John Dillinger. It is just one of the revelations I had while watching Michael Mann’s magical, and often brutal new film, Public Enemies.
Johnny Depp, as one would expect, does not fail to give an outstanding performance as the revered and and celebrated bank robber John Dillinger. The beloved outlaw was known for his bank robbing speed, in and out in about a minute and a half, and kindness and manners toward the average citizen. During the robberies Dillinger did not take the personal belongings or money of the people who were there to conduct banking transactions. “I just want the bank’s money,” Depp’s John tells a customer during a bank raid.
The stunning Billie Frechette (Cotillard), a coat check girl, caught Dillinger’s heart and agreed to go along for a wicked ride in the name of love. Cotillard is an oddly perfect choice for this roll; she is beautifully plain, normal, non-glitzy, yet subtlety sexy and glamorous. In all of her scenes Cotillard owns the screen, outshining even Depp, a truly massive accomplishment! Yet, she is the female love interest, no more, no less. Her capabilities aren't even tapped.
Yes, all of Director Michael Mann’s choices for this film reigned supreme except for one: Christian Bale. Speaking of Public Enemies, Chritian Bale just didn’t hold water as “the good guy” and J. Edgar Hoover’s top FBI hounddog Melvin Purvis. Bale’s star stock is trading low, mainly because of his unforgettable out burst, and a nasty edge to his style. If anyone else had been cast, it would be the audience in more of a “feeling” position for both characters. As it was, you just wanted Dillinger to win, and Bale to come to an unsightly ending.
With great wardrobes, and sets Public Enemies was a feast for the eyes, and a real jolt of realization about the changes in the world. Gone are the grand, open banks, replaced with automatic tellers, electronic security systems have replaced the security guards, and as for robbing that is the profession taken by many of corporate America’s leaders. In the depression era, to be greatly confused with our current day recession era, banks themselves are the “public enemy”; never knowing if they are closing or remaining in business.
Once a good bank robber, when the tides turn and Dillinger becomes Public Enemy number one and has to join forces with brutal, sociopathic criminals like Baby Face Nelson and Alvin Karpis, which makes for some intense action. If you can handle the violence, which is pretty steady throughout this film, with the guns, robbers and cops, then Public Enemies might be one of the best films of the year.