Public Enemies (2009) adapted and directed by Michael Mann

May 11, 2011 § Leave a comment

Public Enemies is a meticulous recreation of the roaring 20’s as seen by John Dillinger and his gang of bank robbers. The costume design is impeccable, the SFX for the gun fights is intense and as close to feeling real as movies get, but at the same time there is a disconnect with the style. There is a coldness to the proceedings that ruins much of the entertainment factor for the film. Most of the cast is short shrifted in what amount to glorified cameos by the likes of Channing Tatum, Giovanni Ribisi, Leelee Sobieski, Stephen Dorff, Stephen Graham, etc. in parts with little to no dialogue or what amount to caricatures of real people. The best performance and most complete character comes in the form of Stephen Lang as Charles Winstead, a man who is equal parts ruthless and sensitive to the human factor of the fight. He is G-Man Melvin Purvis’ right hand man and strong arm of the law. He’s the guy who teaches Purvis how to lower his tactics to a criminals level and bring the fight to the bad guys. As Winstead, Lang gives us a performance with depth of character and a complexity to him we don’t see in anybody else. Depp plays Dillinger as a flashy showman in a very good performance, while Bale’s Purvis is a cold, unemotional cop with a one-track mind. Bale seems to be minimizing each consecutive performance as he goes along. He’s lost the will to emote or erupt. Marion Cotillard gives a wonderful performance as Dillinger’s girlfriend, but their relationship is explored in odd spurts that never feel cohesive. The rest of the cast simply isn’t given enough to do. It’s a cold film that ruins the fun of the story and is not aided by the pseudo-documentary style HD cinematography and ultra-realistic sound design. A missed opportunity by a bevy of talented actors and film makers who perhaps went too high-concept with the films style, given the easily marketable subject matter.

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