Thursday, July 9, 2009

Review of Public Enemies

Public Enemies ***
Directed by Michael Mann
Starring Johnny Depp, Christian Bale and Marion Cotillard

A weekend after the numbskullery of Transformers 2, we get Public Enemies, a highly potent gangster film in the vein of Bonnie & Clyde. I give this film high praise to the acting: Johnny Depp was perfect as legendary bank robber John Dillinger, Christian Bale’s controlling power as Dillinger’s counterpart in law Melvin Purvis and Marion Cotillard painful beauty as Dillinger’s girlfriend Billie Frechette. Solid performances from the whole lot are on display. Michael Mann is also the right person to make a slick movie about gangsters like Heat and Collateral.

The story. Riveting to say the least. It’s an edge on your seat thrill ride from start to finish. The Little Bohemia shoot-out is as riveting and interesting and probably the best scene in this summer season. Some scene are superbly executed, like when Dillinger escapes from prison using only a hand carved “gun”. The sets are magnificent and realistic and so are the costumes. This is as realistic as movie can get. It’s as if they managed to make a movie in the 30’s using modern equipment.

Okay, why the three stars? I obviously loved the movie. Well, I can’t really love this movie, only like it, if not admire it’s efforts. I feel that Mann took the wrong turn in choosing t shoot the film on video. Yes, don’t get me wrong, you can make a movie beautiful on film as it is on video, but not for a film like Public Enemies. Video works well on smaller types of films that need that cold, hard realism to set the mood. This film’s sets would have been astonishingly beautiful it had been shot on film. Public Enemies is a film about 1930’s gangsters that were often seen as movie stars. Dillinger loved film and there are all hell of a lot of references to films. So it would have been nice to see this movie on film.

Also, Mann’s camerawork was not fitting. The camerawork was meant more for documentaries of movies like Children of Men. Once again, the case of making the film look beautiful. Whenever the camera doesn’t get all jerky as if it were all hand held, those more deliberately paced moments, they were absolutely thrilling and captivating. Unfortunately, it felt like at times I was watching Cloverfield and not Public Enemies.

If it weren’t for those technical errors, Public Enemies would have been Michael Mann’s masterpiece, better than Heat as a matter of fact. Instead it’s an above average film, a good popcorn film if you just like you’re movies to be fun. If you want to go have fun, I’d rather that you see this movie than the brain-dead Transformers 2. It’ll do you some good.

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