July 1st, 2009

PUBLIC ENEMIES (2009) **

John Dillinger (Johnny Depp) robs banks and romances some ripe tomato (Marion Cotillard) in the 1930’s.  Meanwhile J. Edgar Hoover (Billy Crudup) names Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale) the head G-Man to take down Dillinger.  After having a brief face-to-face meeting, Dillinger goes about planning one last big score so he can retire only to have his dreams shattered when Purvis guns him down.

 

So basically it’s Heat with Tommy Guns and fedoras.

 

Director Michael Mann keeps the pacing going in an efficient workmanlike manner yet never pulls the audience fully into the world of cops and robbers.  The shitty HD Video camerawork doesn’t do the movie any favors either.  At times the flick is blurry looking (especially when the camera moves around a lot) or grainy (during night time scenes), which really takes you out of the time period of the movie and reminds you that we’re in the 21st century watching some piss poor quality digital shit.

 

What’s worse is that the movie is overall just kinda flat and not very exciting.  Even the robberies are filmed without any panache.  It’s almost as if Mann is saying “Dillinger doesn’t seem to get any joy out of robbing banks, so why should the audience?”

 

Also, the flick is kinda boring too.  You know you’re in trouble when you start thinking up porn parody titles instead of paying attention to the movie.  I came up with three:  Pub-Lick Enemies, Pubic Enemies, and Public Enemas.  If anyone can think of more, feel free to add some in the comments section…

 

Depp does some solid work here but the script never really gives him anything to do besides rob banks in the same dull manner over and over again.  Bale gets the shorter end of the stick.  All his character does is almost capture Dillinger, let him escape; then almost capture him again.  And you know, for all this talk about how great an actor Bale is, I just don’t see it.  I thought a great actor was supposed to disappear completely into a role.  Not Bale.  Nope; every single role Bale’s ever done, from Batman to John Connor to this one, he still has that same boil on the bridge of his nose.  A real “actor” would find a way to hide that boil so he could fully become his character.  (Say what you will about Norbit, but at least Eddie Murphy changed his entire appearance for the film.  Now that’s what I call acting.)  Bale’s so bad in this movie that the boil on his nose actually out-acts him at one point.

 

The only actor who really shines in this movie is Billy Crudup.  He more or less portrays J. Edgar Hoover as an over the top caricature (that’s more of the script’s fault than his), but at least his showy, hammy performance is a lot more memorable than either of the leading men’s more measured and low-key turns.  If anything, Public Enemies is worth a look just to see Dr. Manhattan order Batman around.