johnlink ranks PUBLIC ENEMIES (2009)

I heard a lot of mixed reviews about this film. But with Depp and Bale being directed by the great Michael Mann in one of his signature crime films, I couldn’t help but be intrigued.

I watched PUBLIC ENEMIES (2009) on 7.23.10. It was my first viewing of the film. TRAILER HERE

Michael Mann directed exactly three films in the 90s. All three are in my top movies of all time. They are, in order, LAST OF THE MOHICANS, HEAT, and THE INSIDER. I loved COLLATERAL, though I haven’t seen it since it first came out, and I thought MIAMI VICE was better than expected. I’ve somehow missed THIEF and ALI, though I’d like to rectify that.

So where does the Dillinger biopic PUBLIC ENEMIES rank? I’d probably list it as his least successful film, of those I’ve seen. It is by no means poor in terms of quality of film. Instead, it is a middle of the road film which may have been better suited to be someone else’s film.

We see a similar theme from HEAT, with the career criminal making a choice to walk away from his ‘love’. In HEAT it is a cold decision, in PUBLIC ENEMIES it is a bit more complicated. The end result, though, is the same. I’m not sure Mann had much new to say on the matter.

The filming, shot in the same handheld style which has lately become Mann’s signature, modernizes the feel of the film at several moments. It’s hard to get lost in the 30s when the modern camera is so obviously present.

But there is plenty to like. In typical Mann fashion, there is a cattle call of great actors. They play their small roles well, particularly Billy Crudup as J. Edgar Hoover and Stephan Lang (who, for me, was the weak point of AVATAR) as Charles Winstead. There is often a sense of confusion as to who is who in the night scenes, especially with such a huge cast of similarly dressed actors, but the acting itself works.

The plot, with all its characters, takes perhaps more concentration than it should, especially considering how many liberties were taken with historical accuracy. To me, if you’re going to make up deaths and change events, you can probably condense a few of these characters too. It’s not the sort of film which invites you to watch again in order to straighten out the usual suspects from each other.

All that said, it is still a nice film to look at it, and the intensity is well built at several points. The climax proves somewhat disappointing, and the movie feels like it comes in a little longer than needed. I’m still very glad I saw it, I just wish I had better things to report.





~ by johnlink00 on July 23, 2010.

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