Movie Review: Public Enemies (2009)

July 30, 2009 in Movie Reviews by pacejmiller

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When my sister told me not to waste my money on Public Enemies (starring Johhny Depp and Christian Bale and directed by Michael Mann), calling it long and boring, I knew I had to go and watch it.  And I’m glad I did, because Public Enemies is an excellent movie.

The film centres around the true story of John Dillinger, back robber and public enemy no. 1 during the Great Depression.  Johnny Depp delivers a sensational performance in the lead role, full of quiet confidence and oozing the charisma that made Dillinger an iconic hero in the eyes of many.  You really have to hand it to Depp, who at 46 can still look cool with a dodgy 1930s haircut and a seedy mustache.  He makes Dillinger real and likable despite the fact that he’s really the bad guy.

On the other hand, Christan Bale puts in another low-key but steady performance as FBI agent Melvin Purvis, the man after Dillinger and the other bank robbers of the time.  You don’t really find out much about what Purvis is like as a person, but Bale does a solid job.

Academy Award winner Marion Collitard plays Dilinger’s girl, Billie Frechette.  About halfway through I thought the romance was the weakest part of the movie, but by the end I was convinced that it was an important and integral part of the film.  And Collitard really demonstrates her acting chops towards the end.

Those are the three lead characters, but I was shocked how many big names and familiar faces were in the cast.  Actors such as Billy Crudup, Giovanni Ribisi, David Wenham, Stephen Dorff, Channing Tatum, Leelee Sobieski, Emilie de Ravin, Lili Taylor and Shawn Hatosy pop in and out, but they all add to rather than distract from the film.  One the best casts I’ve seen in a major film.

Director Michael Mann has put together a stylish film which meticulously recreates the essence of the 1930s.  I don’t know how much of the film is fabricated, but it feels real – from the sets to the clothing and the cars and even the blazing guns.  The drama is engaging, the action is exciting, the chase is thrilling and the plot unpredictable.  At 2 hours and 23 minutes it is a pretty long film.  Personally I would have preferred it had they tightened some scenes to cut the running time by around 20 minutes, but overall it is a top notch film.

4 stars out of 5