Jump to content

Public Enemies review

Recommended Posts

Public Enemies


R 143 min



Like many Americans, I’m a big fan of gangsters criminals and outlaws in books and movies. There’s always an allure to these guys who live by their own rules even if those stories are a little spicier than reality.

There are a couple popular treatments, the origin and true stories, as well as the glamorized version.

I recently read Jeff Guinn’s riveting GO DOWN TOGETHER, a painstakingly detailed and researched recounting of Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker. It’s really eye opening to realize the living conditions and general lack of any kind of comfort as the two lived hand to mouth most of their criminal lives while the media concocted a tale of adventure and excitement.

The other kind you’ll find includes the film version of BONNIE AND CLYDE or TOMBSTONE. Romantic characters, action, heroics and amplified personalities abound. They can be fun but not particularly factual or realistic.

PUBLIC ENEMIES, Michael Mann’s John Dillinger (Johnny Depp) story (adapted from the Brian Burrough book) is a little of both and as I see it falls a bit short on either count.

Any history of the younger years that made Dillinger the notorious outlaw he became is absent from the film. PUBLIC ENEMIES begins with a prison break overseen by Dillinger and proceeds through various bank robberies and near misses with the law.

The law, in this case, is J Edgar Hoover, who is vexed by the disrespect of his government superiors. His appointee to the case is Melvin Purvis, whose crime team seems as undisciplined as the bank robbers themselves.

I think the lack of ethics on either side, combined with the purposely low-key acting prevents the audience from taking a rooting interest in either side. Depp’s monotone performance kept me from feeling any chemistry between him and his hat check sweetheart Billie (Marion Cotillard) some think turned him in, though the Burrough version says no.

At any rate (with the exception of one over the top gunfight which ay or may not be a true depiction) many of the scenes are slow and plodding and none of the characters, including Purvis, Hoover. Baby Face Nelson, “Creepy” Kasrpus or anyone else has any depth at all. I wanted to know a lot more and there was plenty of time with nearly two and a half hours. Any one of them could merit a biography.

Maybe I was disappointed as I wanted so much for it to be another classic crime flick and the expectation was unrealistic.

Still I think it’s a solid, if somewhat drab story.











Link to comment
Share on other sites


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Create New...