Review: Public Enemies

Public Enemies | Michael Mann, 2009

I was looking forward to Michael Mann’s take on John Dillinger’s life as a bank robber and the people that hunted him. However, I had my doubts since his recent movies have not been up to par to his other movies, particularly for the way he uses digital cameras to make his movies. There were aspects of the movie that I liked, but the rest was a disappointment.

Johnny Depp plays John Dillinger, the notorious Depression Era gangster who was famous for robbing banks. The movie starts with him entering prison to break out some of his friends. Then we are introduced to Melvin Purvis, the man who would be in charge of catching him. We follow the two as they try to think ahead of the other in order to ensure their future.

The thing that I disliked the most was the script. There is no development for any character what so ever. We just know that Purvis does his job, and Dillinger is charming and cares for his own people. This made me not root for any one of them in the end. Plus, the performances from Depp and Christian Bale did not help. They were just not convincing enough. They weren’t bad, but their off-screen persona still overpowered the character. The only performances that made me glad I sat  through it all was Marion Cotillard’s as Billie Frenchette, John Dillinger’s lady.

Technically, it would have been flawless were it not for the cinematography. I don’t hate the “digital” look that Mann uses as of late (the cinematography in Miami Vice is great) but I don’t like how it was used for a period piece, it just didn’t feel right. He could have done what David Fincher did with The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and try to make the digital look like film and it would have been much better. Let’s see what Mann does next in order to evaluate whether or not he needs to change his technique.


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