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Public Enemies Not Your Best, Mann

  • SumoMe

A review on Public Enemies, based on the famed robbers of Chicago during the great depression. Directed by Michael Mann and stars Johnny Depp, Marion Cotillard and Christian Bale. “Catch Public Enemies for your dose of nostalgia done right, but don’t expect a storyline that will blow you away.”

An article by Penny K

Johnny Depp as John Dillinger

Johnny Depp as John Dillinger

Set during the Great Depression in the 1930s, the time of America’s greatest crime wave, Public Enemies (2009) is an American crime film focusing on the true story of FBI agent Melvin Purvis’ (Christian Bale) attempt to stop well-known criminals John Dillinger (Johnny Depp), Baby Face Nelson and Pretty Boy Floyd (Channing Tatum).

Michael Mann, the film’s director, better known for his work such as Collateral (2004) and Miami Vice (2006), has churned out his fair share of films like Hancock (2008) that the critics were only lukewarm about. His latest creation Public Enemies straddles between what’s hot and what’s not.

What was good about Enemies was mainly its ability to revive the years of the Great Depression, though in times of today’s recession it seems like we need no reminder. Nevertheless, the era was reenacted with great care, and to such an effective extent that sometimes that overtakes the plot. Just like Billie Frachette (Marion Cotillard), gets lost in the Depps of Dillinger’s eyes, so was I lost in the dark and beautiful gloom of the setting of Enemies.

I kid you not when I say the cast was star-studded – at least to me it was. There is Johnny Depp who is Everyone’s Eternal Favourite, Christian

Marion Cotillard as Billie Frechette

Marion Cotillard as Billie Frechette

Bale who can do no wrong with fame spilled over from his role as the caped flying mammal crusader, and Marion Cotillard is just a personal, indelible favourite. Sounds good, bodes well. But you know how too many cooks spoil the broth? Same thing happens here. With so many things happening: from bank robberies to amorous moments to violent shootouts, it’s as if the actors were all vying for airtime. And I’ve not even started on the supporting cast which includes the likes of Channing Tatum who’s not exactly A-list, but isn’t exactly Z-list either.

I won’t take away from Mann the good he did with Public Enemies. Mann’s nostalgic depiction of the Hard Times of 1930s is commendable. He aptly portrays the strife in a way that is mirrored in the image of the painfully sad yet beautiful song of the jazz lounge singer (cameo appearance by Diana Krall). I also liked that the romance between Dillinger and Billie (who is half French half Indian; a big no-no in the Midwest then) is not forged over merely love, but from the ability to identify with each other as people living in the margins of society.

Catch Public Enemies for your dose of nostalgia done right, but don’t expect a storyline that will blow you away. At times, it bordered on being draggy. In 70 odd years time, maybe someone will make a better film about the Lehman Brothers who aren’t too far off from bank robbers. Till then, let’s make do with what we have.

*All images are used for the purpose of publicity. Penny's Daybook does not own them. 

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