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Thursday, June 25, 2009

PUBLIC ENEMIES

By D.E.Levine

Director: Michael Mann
Producers: Michael Mann and Kevin Misher
Executive Producer: G.Mac Brown
Co-producers: Bryan H. Carroll, Gusmano Cesaretti and Kevin De La Noy
Screenplay: Michael Mann, Ann Biderman and Ronan Bennett
Book: Bryan Burrough's "Public Enemies: America's Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933-1934"
Cast: Johnny Depp, Christian Bale, Marion Cotillard, Giovanni Ribisi, Stephen Dorff, Stephen Graham, Bill Camp, Jason Clarke, David Wenham, Billy Crudup, Rory Cochrane, Jason Clarke and Stephen Lang
Music: Elliot Goldenthal
Running Time: 140 Minutes
Country of Origin: United States
Language: English

Once again, Johnny Depp immerses himself in a role and believably becomes the character. As the Depression-era bank robber and sometimes idolized Robin Hood John Dillinger, he is good looking, charismatic and bold in his bank robberies.

Stating that he's never considered doing anything else because he's "having too much fun," Depp portrays Dillinger as a personable, extremely confident, low-key ladies' man who's very loyal to his friends.

The movie is chock-full of prison breaks, holdups and shoot outs, but while sticking basically to the facts, the movie doesn't introduce any new and unknown information about Dillinger and his gang.

Dillinger was the most publicized of the many Depression-era outlaws whose crimes were responsible for the formation of the FBI, known at the time as "G-Men."

Paroled after nine years in the Indiana State Penitentiary on May 10, 1033, the film opens with Dillinger engineering the mass escape of old friends incarcerated in the State Pen in 1933 and follows his rampage around the United States for 14 months until he was shot and killed 14 months later on July 22, 1934.

Interestingly, the film never discusses the Depression itself. Although the sociopolitical conditions of the time are very important to the story, the film never discusses why the public sympathized with bank robbers who held up the very institutions that many blamed for their financial situation.

The costumes are rich and beautiful, which also obscures the Depression era. Even the robbers getting killed are immaculately dressed and coiffed, while at rest, during robberies and while being killed.

Additionally, the film concentrates on Dillinger robbing large, marble palace-like banks in large cities, although it's well-known that Dillinger frequently robbed banks in small or medium-sized towns and cities.

This is a noisy film, since most scenes involve loud, surround sound, gunfire either during a robbery or an attack by FBI on the bandits. The visual bursts of white light that indicate gun blasts during the darkest nighttime hours are also stunning.

While documenting Dillinger's crime spree, the film also documents the parallel rise of organized crime and the simultaneous development of the F.B.I.

Originally outgunned by the criminals, J.Edgar Hoover and Special Agent Melvin Purvis hired trained killers from Texas and Oklahoma.

The outlaws and the "lawmen" had vicious gun battles involving narrow escapes for Dillinger and his gang. A lot of dying, both of criminals and lawmen, takes place in this movie.

The purpose of this high-priced, large cast film? Obviously Michael Mann wanted to tell an authentic story and John Dillinger's story has only been told twice before.

Despite a great deal of talk about the scientific methods used by the FBI, the agency actually wins by massacring the criminals instead of arresting them.

However, the bloody violence and the constant noise make this a film only suitable for viewers with strong constitutions.