Thursday, August 13, 2009

Public Enemies (2009)

Director: Michael Mann
Notable Cast: Johnny Depp, Christian Bale, and brief appearance by Channing Tatum

Pretty massive disappointment in my book. Perhaps I should have read some reviews before going in (so I had something to lower my expectations) but I found "Public Enemies" to be more of a lesson in frustrating film making then in enjoyment of one of my favorite periods in history.

Firstly, I will state what was done well in this film as there were moments that made it worth the $3 in the cheap seats. Firstly, Depp as Dillinger was a fantastic choice and it was a great performance on his part. He carried this movie on his back with relative ease and its worth seeing it for some of his scenes. Combine him with some of the pretty solid supporting cast (I always did love Dorff) and there are some pretty solid moments. I also was really digging the love story portion of the film for Depp and Cotillard and their chemistry was one of the best parts of "Public Enemies" - even if I had some story issues here.

Honestly, that's about all I got for the good stuff. Otherwise I had some serious issues with presentation and story on this one. Christian Bale is a great actor but when you give him an essentially depthless character (at the end you learn he takes his own life later on - ahhh who gives a shit I thought) then he isn't able to do much. He has only one or two solid scenes in the film and they are ones with Mr. Depp. Go figure. And on this note, comes my issue with the focus of this film. Is it a sympathetic tale of Dillinger? Is is focused on the task of bringing him down? Is it about his relationship with Billy? Is Bale even a main character? Hell, the lack of back story and character development would say not. It's actually a little of everything but Mann misses the boat on most of it by trying to jam way too much into the story. We get a really long movie that dabbles in a lot but never lets the audience plunge in. It's very frustrating and made me an anxious viewer. What didn't help with that was the somewhat random time jumps. It's obvious that this film takes place over a significant amount of time. Sudden location changes, facial hair changes, and climate changes signify that much time has passed but for the life of me I couldn't tell you how much. And for a historical film (whether or not how much of it is fact) this is something of importance that is just brushed to the side.

All in all, this film felt both far too long and rushed at the same time. The makers jammed as much as possible into it and left too much out. An easy step to righting this sinking ship would have been to pick a focus and stay with it whilst having subplots instead of making 10 plots and jamming it all together. Mann is lucky that he had a talented cast to carry his ass through this one.

BONUS RANT:  Did anyone else think that some of the action scenes looked like clips from "Cops"? The odd shaky cam following people and digital film just made it seem really cheap to me for some reason. During the shoot out at the cabin in the woods I almost felt like it was a TV dramatization from "America's Most Wanted". 

 Written By Matt Reifschneider 

1 comment:

  1. Felt the movie had all the same problems that you did, but apparently I liked it much better than you did.