“Mann goes off the Depp end with his new gangster flick”

_ Public Enemies_

Title: Public Enemies

I put my hope in an outlaw. In this less than mediocre summer of earlier anticipated films I was hoping that the new Michael Mann directed gangster flick would salvage what was left of the season. The poster had me hooked from day one. Johnny Depp with trench coat and tommy-gun was enough to make girls swoon and guys say heck ya. Public Enemies release on July 1 could not come soon enough. But now that it is here I still walked out missing that wow factor. Good? Better than good. Worth seeing? Absolutely. Depp deliver? As always. But I wanted wow and got decent.

It’s 1930’s Chicago and John Dillinger (Depp) is Public Enemy Number 1. He is making a mockery of the justice system with his bank robbing and shenanigans. J. Edgar Hoover has had enough and brings in lawman Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale) to pull out all stops and bring Dillinger to justice. Problem is Dillinger is having too much fun to get caught. His “live in the moment” attitude is destructive but gives him an air and confidence to stay a step ahead of the law. He is sort of a celebrity to many; robbing from the institutions in a time when the depression has everyone strapped. From jail breaks to courtroom trials to bank robbing to love interests, Public Enemies gives you a broad stroke of the life of this historic criminal.

I love the 30’s and 40’s for movie making. The clothes and cars are the coolest. Add to that the flamboyant lives of those like Baby Face Nelson, Dillinger and others and it is grounds for perfect cinematography. Also the G-Men of those times are just as large and in charge. Many times the crooks get the attention when in fact guys like Purvis and Hoover where kicking butt and taking names just as much as anyone. Sure Hollywood loves a bad guy and Dillinger on the poster sells more tickets than Purvis would. Our tendency to glamorize these killers often seems sort of misaligned. They kill and loot and yet we see them as role models for cool. Make no mistake that in the end you see who the real tough guys are. And that to me is just as groovy.

If I find any fault in this film it is that I wanted more action and thrills. Within the two and a half hours you get a fair shake of machine guns and heists but I felt they were short lived compared to the personal side of Dillinger. This doesn’t make for a bad film, but I would have been happy with more hold ups. Depp, even with that silly fake moustache, is perfect for this role. He has a dark storm behind his eyes and a winning smile that makes Dillinger’s popularity believable. Likewise, Bale brings the same focus and determination that made the batman character a bad mamma jamma to this Purvis role. This strong actor foundation saved the films slower moments for sure.

Public Enemies is Rated R for gangster violence and some language. Surprisingly the language is tame for this sort of mob action. There is a certain style and sophistication to that time period and the movie reflects that in the rarity of profanity. Sure it is there but lightly sprinkled so that it enhances without overindulging. That said the violence is intense and graphic. Bullet riddled bodies are common place and the squeamish may have to avert their eyes at times. But again, the movie mainly focuses on the man hunt more than the crimes so even though the scenes are intense when they happen; it is mixed in with much non violent drama. I give Public Enemies a solid 3.75 out of 5 running boards. Though not perfect it is a well done film and one that delivers where it needs to. Maybe not as much as I had wanted but enough to make it a welcome relief to the drivel we have been subjected to the last couple of months. So says Matt Mungle

Matt Mungle (matt@mungleshow.com) (6/30/09)

(3.75 out of 5)

Review copyright 2009 Mungleshow Productions. Used by Permission.

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