In a mess of blockbusters and blockbusters to come, Public Enemies doesn’t seem to fit in. Although advertised as an action packed gangster film, I think you’ll find that the latest from Michael Mann is more a slow moving, character driven drama than a shoot em up summer romp.
Following the exploits of infamous bank robber John Dillinger (Johnny Depp) and the man who endlessly pursued him Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale), Public Enemies is both a brooding crime drama and somewhat of a bittersweet romance. A great deal of the film focuses on Dillinger’s love life with girlfriend Billie Frechette (Marion Cotillard) and the things that continually kept them apart. Depp plays Dillinger to a tee with just the right amount of toughness and charm. It wouldn’t be all that surprising if he somehow managed another oscar nom, I’m sure he’ll get a win someday but not for this. I find it surprising how sympathetic Dillinger despite him being on the wrong side of the law. He’s very likable and the film does an adequate job portraying him realistically while at the same time romanticizing him.
A relatively lengthy film, I’d say it probably took me almost 40 minutes to really get into it. The film is somewhat slow at times and certainly doesn’t break the mold in anyway, but it’s still a thrilling and entertaining experience. I wasn’t surprised to see a lack of historical accuracies in the film but it’s a minor complaint. I don’t think the edgy Michael Mann is the best filmmaker to approach this subject but it has it’s moments (Any of Dillinger’s high adrenaline escapes are worth note).
I’d definitely agree with some critics that Public Enemies overall “misses it’s mark” to some extent. Sure I liked it but with such a great character and subject matter, this really had the potential to be so much more. Instead what we got was a fairly straightforward, conventional drama with good acting and some highly suspenseful action sequences. This film probably would of been better suited for a fall release, but it’s still a nice change of pace from all the other noisier and stupider films often released in these muggy summer months. I wouldn’t recommend you rush out and see it but it’s worth seeing if you like Johnny Depp or the subject matter.