- « New DVD Releases December 15th, 2009
- Trailer Park Boys: Countdown to Liquor Day. On DVD December 22nd. (******6/10) »
“I rob banks.”
Country: United States
Starring: Johnny Depp, Christian Bale, Channing Tatum, Marion Cotillard, Giovanni Ribisi, Billy Crudup, Stephen Dorff, Lili Taylor
Cameos: Diana Krall, Leelee Sobieski
Director: Michael Mann
Run time: 143 minutes
DVD extras: Feature commentary with Michael Mann, Larger Than Life: Adversaries, Michael Mann: Making Public Enemies, and On Dillinger’s Trail, a featurette about the real locations. All very good stuff.
It’s tough to think about Public Enemies without drawing comparisons to Michael Mann’s other, very similar movie, Heat. Both are cat-and-mouse stories about a determined cop trying to hunt down an equally determined and dangerous bank robber. Both have two enormous stars who share precious little screen time and are badly underused. And both rely on crazy shootouts to fill their overly long running times.
I do have a soft spot for Heat, however, whereas I don’t have one for Public Enemies. The crazy shootout in Heat was awesome. The shootouts in Public Enemies are not the same. In this movie, the shootouts are pure Hollywood, with thousands upon thousands of bullets flying, but rarely hitting their targets except at the exact moments where a gunshot wound can create a dramatic scene. You know no one important is going to be killed in that cabin in the woods during the crazy shootout. But you know that when they are alone, running through the woods, there will be a dramatic scene where one major player dies in another’s arms.
The biggest difference between the two movies is that Public Enemies is, as far as a Hollywood movie can be, a true story about a really famous criminal. I think most people are aware of the existence of John Dillinger, many of those people know how he was finally apprehended, and even a few know the name of the man who got him, Melvin Purvis. So with a run time of almost two and a half hours, I would like to think that Mann could have found a way to connect me with the two main characters.
Especially when those two characters, Dillinger (Johnny Depp) and Purvis (Christian Bale) are being played by two phenomenal actors who could easily provide each man with humanity and character. Then again, Mann had DeNiro and Pacino for Heat, and neither one of them really created a character in that film either. Instead, we get to see Dillinger as a fun-loving, charming rogue who robs banks. And that’s about it. He falls for a woman (Marion Cotillard, who is also terribly underused), but I never knew why. I didn’t get what he saw in her, and I didn’t understand why she loved him so desperately.
I would get it if it was just an infatuation – he’s a dashing, dangerous bank robber, she’s an idiot – or something like that. But instead this is a Hollywood functional romance only. They meet. He decides he wants her. He gets her. Then they are desperately in love. For some reason. Who cares why, the point is they are.
I had the same problem with Bale’s Purvis. Pressured by J. Edgar Hoover (Billy Crudup) to catch Dillinger at all costs, Purvis has some scenes where he appears to be conflicted about the methods he is using to bring the bank robber to justice. Even the title of the movie, Public Enemies, is pluralized, indicating that perhaps Purvis is as dangerous as Dillinger himself. But aside from a few winces and sighs, I never really saw that inner conflict within the man. And when the postscript came up on the screen after the film, explaining what happened to Purvis after his pursuit of Dillinger came to an end, it made little sense in the context of the film.
That being said, Public Enemies is nice to look at, and it’s well shot and it’s slick. And it’s Michael Mann. If you want to actually learn about Dillinger and Purvis and the era in which they operated, the Blu-Ray comes with some excellent special features that explain far more than the movie does. The special features, in fact, are so good that they might make the DVD more worthwhile than the film itself.