Public Enemies
review by Neo

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Year: 2009

Box Office: US$114 million (as of 4 Aug 2009)

Director: Michael Mann

Producer: Michael Mann, Kevin Misher

Screenplay: Ronan Bennett, Ann Biderman, Michael Mann

Book: Bryan Burrough

Starring: Johnny Depp, Christian Bale, Marion Cotillard, Billy Crudup, Stephen Dorff, Lili Taylor, Channing Tatum, Emilie de Ravin

Genre: Robbers/Romance/Crime/Drama

Tagline: Depp is exceptional, but nothing really happens…

Review by Neo: I am disappointed. Basically, the line before this summed up the whole movie. Public Enemies is one of my most anticipated films of the year. The trailer looked tight, slick, interesting, historic and bombastic. However, as the credit rolls, the film is clocked far too long (almost 3 hours of running time) and the very fact that nothing really happens. True, some may argue that all real life 1930s bank robber –John Dillinger (played sublimely by Johnny Depp) did was robbing banks. I pose the question, does it really require three valuable hours of screen time to visualise the tale? Sure, director Michael Mann is going for the being the real for the realist stake, but by the end of the film, the audience does not feel for a single thing for Depp and with three hours of prior investment, it is bounded to disappoint, even the most patient of human species.

The movie goes like this: Johnny Depp is a serial bank robber who roams around the country of USA, for one mission – to rob banks and escape from jails. In the process he met a beautiful Marion Cotillard and hook up with her. Basically the film is about the life of a bank robber who constantly outsmarts his police counterparts with an underlying passion for robbing banks and the girl in red.

As mentioned before, the film fails by not only being too simple, but rather far too realistic for its own good. If the film clocked just 2 hours, then perhaps it is still plausible, but the fact that it requires 3 hours of longevous running time to express something so simple, it feels more like a waste of time. That’s not to say that director Michael Mann did a bad job, as the direction can easily be described as simple and effective and some scenes especially the numerous bank robberies and chasing scenes are crucially well-staged. However, the film just fails to connect and after investing 3 hours, one would really expect a lot more.

After all these cons, I guess you are probably wandering if this movie is really worthy of a review. I must admit that I was rather impressed by the performance of Johnny Depp. Not only does he resemble the real-life bank robber, John Dillinger, he is probably the only reason why I was able to stay awake for the duration. Depp easily outshines fellow co-star, Christian Bale (as the head copper chasing after Depp and his gang). It is not an understatement to claim that Depp have menacing charisma and irresistible screen presence. The manner and the way he picked up Marion Cotilard were cheesy yet extremely effective and memorable. I still recall, the moment Marion claims: “I don’t even know you” and Depp smartly replies: “I like fast cars, whiskey and you, what more do you need to know?” Now that’s a rare moment of cinematic magic and perfect comic timing. I do still strongly believe that it takes a character and the calibre of Depp, to pull a line like that so seamlessly. The only flaw here is really the manner and the way the film ended, with the audience lacking in any sort of emotional attachment to Depp’s character. However, to me personally, I do not believe it is right to push the blame to Depp and rather attribute the blame towards director Mann instead. A wondrous and catchy display from the dependable Depp and the chemistry between Depp and Marion is just realistic and naturalistic enough to be believable.

Christian Bale is a brilliant actor with a crappy voice, but here, he is simply overshadowed, out-classed by the inflatable Depp. As the police counterpart, Bale has the determination and desperation of the required part, but just somehow fails to shine. It is a good performance by all means, but just nothing stunning or memorable. Marion Cotilard is a classic beaut of the French Cinema and her display here is both captivating and perhaps the most humane of the pack. Cotilard was last seen in Hollywood starring alongside Russell Crowe in A Good Year, portrays a character with some degree of emotional depth. The scene in the interrogation room is both brave and confronting. Not to forget, Depp and Cotilard are a fine couple and the fact that both are each other needs, made them all the more convincing.

All in all, Public Enemies is by no means a total failure, with some fine acting turns from Depp and Cotilard and adequate support from Bale. The film fails to hit its mark by simply being too realistic for the audience to become involved in any of the proceedings. Director Michael Mann, usually have an excellent track record and films like Collateral, Aviator and Heat speaks for itself. Here, Mann has lost that humane touch, by resembling too much to the real-life story. True, Dillinger at its very centre of its core is only a guy who strive and thrills himself by robbing banks and bedding women, but this is a cinematic experience, not exactly a semi-documentary. The result is leaving the audience exhausted and frustrated, by the time the credits begin to hover. In fact, I was left quite empty, disappointed and the feeling of “nothing really happened”, therefore given the three hours duration; it is probably not too self fish for demanding a little more … (Neo 2009)

I rate it 6/10

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