Man, this movie was boring. I mean, eye-rollingly, "should I walk out?", "what should I make for dinner?" boring. And all this, despite the fact that I really like Johnny Depp and Christian Bale as actors, I really like gangster movies, and I respect Michael Mann as a director. Maybe it's the script? Maybe it's the cheap-looking, distractingly hand-held DV shooting-style? Maybe it's the fact that Michael Mann just isn't that interested in who John Dillinger really was? But this biopic of one of America's most notorious bank robbers lacks energy and drive. It just never got me by the proverbial balls and made me care.
What a shame. What better time to make a film about a folk hero who robbed the banks that were foreclosing on honest, hard-working folk at the height of the Great Depression? What better time to show the FBI abusing civil rights in its mad dash to imprison Public Enemy Number One? But Michael Mann isn't really interested in all that.
He's interested in telling the same old Michael Mann story - where real men are defined by their job and real movies are about real men who cannot, for some reason, continue in that job, and enter an existential crisis. So here's John Dillinger as the man who robs banks, never leaves a pal behind bars, and offers his coat to ladies. He isn't closed down by the Feds but, more fundamentally, by the crime syndicates who realise that bank robbery is bad for the real business of gaming rackets. Impeded from his typical modus operandi, Dillinger is forced to take work with the psychopath Babyface Nelson - a much higher stakes game.
Don't get me wrong - DV aside - this isn't a bad film. Johnny Depp, Christian Bale, Billy Crudup, Marion Cotillard all give decent performances. Stephen Graham as Babyface Nelson is actually superb. But the resulting film is, like bad schoolboy history, just one damn thing after another. I finished up not really knowing why Dillinger loved Billie or why he felt compelled to do what he did or what was going on in Melvin Purvis head. Despite a classic shoot-out sequence it lacks the momentum for an action movie. And despite the ponderous pace and period detail, it lacks the beauty and complexity of a film like THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD. Which makes the movie ultimately an exercise in clever but ultimately vacuous film-making.
PUBLIC ENEMIES is on release in the USA, Canada, the UK, Greece, Denmark, France, Indonesia, Morocco, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Israel, Slovakia, South Korea, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia and Turkey. It opens on July 23rd in Belgium, Hong Kong, Russia, Singapore, Ukraine, Brazil, Norway, Sweden, Egypt, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Iceland, Germany, Portugal, Finland, Romania, Spain and Italy.