Sunday, July 12, 2009

Public Enemies (2009)

I saw Michael Mann's Public Enemies this weekend. This was an entertaining period piece but ultimately lacked the depth of character that I'd have liked.

Johnny Depp plays John Dillinger, and the movie starts with him breaking a group of his gangster colleagues out of prison. They then rob banks and party like gangsters, and Dillinger falls in love with Marillon Cotillard's character. One by one, each of the gang is killed by the FBI, until Dillinger is the last man standing. The best scene in the movie was the second bank robbery - it was very stylized with all the gangsters dressed to the hilt and a fantastic "O Brother Where Art Thou"-type song playing in the background.

My problems with the movie:

(1) I was never able to distinguish the various gangster characters

(2) Dillinger's motives went completely unexplored / unexplained. Other than the money line "I like baseball, fast cars, whiskey and you," there was almost no sense of what was causing Dillinger to rob the banks and why he reveled so much in his notoriety.

(3) Similarly, the Christian Bale character (Melvin Purvis) was steel-faced and determined but I couldn't get any sense of what motivated him.

(4) There was a subplot about J. Edgar Hoover and the Chicago mob getting nervous about federal intervention//crime-fighting that could disrupt its bookmaking, but the larger political context was not sufficiently fleshed out.

On Slate's Culture Gabfest, Julia Turner talked about the way in which Michael Mann seems to be making a point about the driving power of ambition in "great men" (good and bad) -- but that it's not clear what, precisely, Mann's point is.

No comments:

Post a Comment