Monday, July 6, 2009

Public Enemies (2009)

Starring Johnny Depp, Christian Bale, Marion Cotillard, et al
Rated R, 140 minutes

"The Feds try to take down notorious American gangsters John Dillinger, Baby Face Nelson and Pretty Boy Floyd during a booming crime wave in the 1930s." Blurbs like that made me think "Public Enemies" would follow the exploits of several Depression-era criminals. Really, this is a movie about John Dillinger (played by Johnny Depp). He robs banks. And America's law elite doesn't like it. But they don't have the financial support; they need to earn that.

The movie does a good (if usual) job of making you root for the criminal. Dillinger is charismatic and funny. Heck, we're cheering against the burgeoning FBI for Pete's sake!
The first half lacked traction. I came out with a picture of how Dillinger lived, and why he lived that way in the time the movie was set. I did not discern, however, what in his past made him John Dillinger. Throughout, the audience is told about some of the characters rather than shown through slices of life. There's a distinct lack of a background on these people, and it makes the early scenes a jumble. Some scenes seemed to inhibit the greater narrative.

Just as I was readying my watch to look at it, things picked up. Though I knew the fate of John Dillinger, I still had hope in several parts of the movie that he'd make it out alive. Even when I knew I was in the scene where he'd be shot, I was eagerly anticipating when it would happen, and if John would fire off a few more rounds before being killed himself. "Armed and dangerous" was more than a casual phrase with Dillinger.

Johnny Depp gave the lead role a serviceable swagger. Christian Bale was perhaps wound a little too tight as FBI agent Melvin Purvis.

***½

Despite a lagging first half, "Public Enemies" managed to grip me as it pulled into the station. While the raucous gun fights had bigger impact on the big screen, I'd still recommend less-than-full monetary investment in seeing this one.

2 comments:

Ryan Wehner said...

Great. Still have yet to see it.

NoneUponThars said...

Though I did like this movie, my problem was mostly with the character development. I had a hard time relating to Dillinger and Purvis, and was deeply confused about Dillinger's sudden love interest. Johnny Depp did a great job playing a mysterious character, and I found no fault in his acting. I just think that the writers could have given us a little more background on Dillinger and Purvis' motivations. A few simple flashbacks or a scene from years prior at the start of the movie would have sufficed.
The bit about the movie being about Babyface and Pretty Boy Floyd were ridiculous--one was on screen mere minutes before dying, and the other made an similarly minimal appearance.
On a more petty, girly note, the constant gunfire started to bother my ears after a while. Johnny Depp did look damn sexy in those dark trench coats, though!