Skip to main content

Movie Review: Public Enemies

In Brief:

This movie is worth the trip; great action scenes, very realisticly shot and acted, and at times will have you gripping your arm-rests in suspense. Johnny Depp and Marion Cotillard turn in great performances without hamming it up one bit. This film has all the elements of a great action movie: the Villian-Hero, the Pursuer, the Love-Interest, the Bad Guys Cronies Who Die-Off One-by-One. Plus, some of the shoot-em-scenes are so will shot you will be ducking from the machine gun fire...okay that's hyperbole. But if you like action movies, this one is worth it.

But take note, this is not a Biopic. You won't get much background or historical information about Dillinger or any of the characters. In fact, the only one that you get any information about is Dillinger. In a way, that's part of this movie's charm, however, I was expecting at least some clues to this man's past and/or his motivation for starting a life of crime. I was expecting to be educated to at least some degree. That didn't happen. Also, the movie sags a bit in the middle and is filmed in this strange kind of lighting style that reminded me of a History Channel re-enactment more than a feature film. Again, that was part of it's charm in a way, but was a little bit hard to get used to and not altogether effective.

I'll spare you the plot synopsis and all that crappo that you can read on regular movie reviews....


1.) One of the best chase scenes I've ever seen in my life...

Near the end comes one of the best chase scenes in film history, I think. I won't spoil it for you, but just wait for it. My ass was getting numb during part of this picture, but this chase had me on the edge of my seat.

2.) Johnny Depp

I've been a Johnny Depp fan for along time. He's the man for period peices, for some reason, and he doesn't dissappoint. He becomes Dillinger in this movie. I can't even think of a single negative aspect to his performance in this movie.

3.) Marion Cotillard

You might remember her from La Vie en Rose. She plays the love-interest in this film. She's incredible to look at; very sexy and the hint of French accent only makes it better. She would've had a lot of opportunities to over-act this part, but she doesn't. She gives it a very subtle turn, and keeps it realistic.

4.) Filming Style

I'd have to do some research about how they filmed this movie, but when you see it, you'll understand. There is a kind of VHS Home Video Recorder quality about the cinematography. The camera moves and shakes sometimes as if it's being held by hand, and something about the lighting leaves a grainy effect that is very unique. As I said, it is great for the action scenes, making you feel like you're right there.

Plus, this technique gives the movie a very realistic feel. In fact it's one of the few films where you can actually forget you're watching a movie. There is none of that "grand" feeling of watching other period films, but a more up-close and informal feeling prevails. Nevertheless, there are some stunning scenes, like the apple orchard chase, and the horse track, that really stand out.


1.) Public Enemy...singular...

This movie is somewhat inaptly named. The film is about Dillinger, and nobody else. I expected to hear a little bit about Baby Face Nelson and Pretty Boy Floyd. Well, Nelson only shows up in a handful of scenes, lighting up the screen with his high-energy exploits. I'd liked to have seen more of him, but in the film he and Dillinger are portrayed as barely more than acquaintances. He's a tangential character, at best.

The big disappointment was Pretty Boy Floyd. Floyd shows up long enough to get gunned down in a quick chase-scene early in the movie, and then is not heard from or about ever again. With a name like Pretty Boy Floyd, he sounds like a hell of a character. Yet why does the film almost totally ignore him? The film was said to be about Dillinger, Nelson, and Floyd, yet the latter two occupy about 10 minutes of screen time, combined.

2.) Why do we care?

As I said, the film doesn't go into any background about any of the characters. I, for one, hardly knew anything about Dillinger before this film, and still don't. The most interesting character, from a historical perspective, was J. Edgar Hoover, who makes a lot of apperances in this movie.

From a story perspective, I'm not sure why I should care about John Dillinger, other than the fact that he's Johnny Depp and that the movie is about him. I think we do end up caring about him in the end, because it's a good film, but I think just a tad bit more background would've been usefull. Granted, that's what makes this movie different from the other tired Biopics that are out there, you know the ones that show the whole cycle; the childhood trauma, the rise, the fall, and the rise again... But I think this film goes a little too far in the "Show" direction of the great Show vs. Tell debate.


In conclusion...Why not? Depp is one of the great actors of our time, and here he is doing what he does best; a Period Peice. And who doesn't love a great shoot-em-up film from the was the golden era of crime, and it's a Gold Mine for filmmakers. It's hard not to get a kick out of seeing those Tommy Guns and old cars up on screen, and minus a few slow patches in the middle, it's a pretty damned exciting movie. So definitely put it on your list, but you probably had it on there already.


Popular posts from this blog

New Yorker Fiction Review #151: "The Bog Girl" by Karen Russell

From the June 20 issue...

My loyal readers (if there are still any, which I doubt) will know I'm usually not a fan of Magical Realism, which, as you may also know, is Karen Russell's stock in trade. That said, there's nothing I love more than having my antipathy for magical realism shattered by an awesome story like "The Bog Girl."

Briefly, an Irish teenager discovers the body of a young woman who as been buried in a bog for over 2,000 years and begins to date her. What more do you need, right? If I'd read that one-line description somewhere else, and wasn't on a mission to review every New Yorker short story, I doubt I'd have read "The Bog Girl." But maybe I should start doing a George Costanza and do the opposite of everything I think I should do.

Where Russell succeeds here is in two main areas: 1.) Making us really love Cillian, the teenager who falls in love with the bog girl, and 2.) pulling the unbelievable trick making the characters…

Holiday Q&A, Volume 1

These questions come to us from Grace. Thanks for sending your questions!! Answers below:
What is the most thrilling mystery you have read and/or watched?
The Eiger Sanction (book and film) by Trevanian is what's coming to mind. International espionage. Mountain-climbing assassins. Evil albino masterminds. Sex. Not a bad combination. Warning, this is completely a "guy" movie, and the film (feat. Clint Eastwood) is priceless 70s action movie cheese. But in case that's your thing...
What's the deal with Narcos?
Narcos is a Netflix show about the rise and fall (but mostly the fall) of Columbian cocaine kingpin Pablo Escobar. Thus far there are two seasons of 10 episodes each. RIYL: The film Blow, starring Johnny Depp; the book Zombie City, by Thomas Katz; the movie Goodfellas; true crime; anything involving the drug trade. My brief review: Season 1 started out a bit slow and I know a bunch of people who never made it past the first few episodes. Some of the acting is a…

A Piece of Advice I Learned From My Grandfather

My grandfather was one of the most learned men I know. He read widely and voraciously, and not just in the sciences (he was a doctor); he loved politics, philosophy, and great literature as well. Whenever he finished a book he would write his thoughts about the book in the front cover and then sign and date it. To this day every once in a while I will open a book from my bookshelf or my mother's bookshelf, or at one of my family members' homes, and there will be my grandfather's handwriting. He was also a great giver of his books; if you remarked that you liked a particular one or wanted to read it, you were almost sure to take it home with you.

Reading is a very solitary pursuit but my grandfather was not a solitary person. He relished having family and friends around him which is convenient because he was blessed with a lot of both. And he carried out his intellectual life in a very "public" way as well. He was, in some ways, an intellectual evangelist. If he r…