Been a while since I've posted any reviews, let alone any reviews that were actual films. Well, let me make it clear that the D-Man is back in business!
Anyway, for my glorious comeback into the world of movie reviews, I've chosen to review Public Enemies. The film is directed by Michael Mann, and stars Johnny Depp and Christian Bale. The film is about the criminal career of notorious bank robber and public enemy #1. John Dillinger (Depp) and the efforts of FBI agent Melvin Purvis (Bale) to bring him down along with associates of Dillinger, namely "Pretty Boy" Floyd, and "Baby Face" Nelson. I'm going to start off by saying that this is not your typical gangster film, there are no slow-downs in the plot for the sake of explaining how gang life works and going so deep in depth into characters that you lose focus on the plot. No, this movie is heavily driven by the plot, and only develops its characters as they need be, no intensely long back stories of everyone's poor childhood. In one scene, Dillinger is able to sum up his life story in less than a minute. This movie is highly driven by its suspenseful and well thought out plot, and by characters that are compelling without developing them way too much or turning them into robots. Because of how quickly the plot moves, it commands your attention every second, so be sure not to make too many bathroom breaks, because just one might cause you to lose place in the film. The great thing about this, however, is that Public Enemies is so visually compelling that it will get your attention and keep your attention. It makes great use of every second of running time that it has, no scene feels unnesseccary and feels like one huge culmination of events that does prove fatal to Dillinger's ultimate demise. The movie is constantly moving and doesn't slow down for anything, which is truly one of the many beauties of this film.
Oh, what to say about the casting. Well, we've got Captain Jack Sparrow vs Batman. Only this is really Christian Bale's first role that he's given up that Batman persona and truly played his role. And Johnny Depp's portrayal as Dillinger is nothing short of landmarking. Depp did not base his role on any other gangster films and truly made Dillinger his own. I feel, that as Heath Ledger is the Joker, Johnny Depp is John Dillinger. Basically, we have two leads that performed magnificently in roles they took and made entirely their own. The two may not share much on-screen time together, but the time they did have together was brilliance and genius. Plus, their lack of on-screen time together is what made their chemistry so compelling. Dillinger and Purvis have no real knowledge of each other other than Dillinger is a bad-ass gangster while Purvis is the man trying to bring him to justice. They have no real knowledge of each other beyond that, so without any personal ambition driving or hindering them, they're constantly battling each other on strictly professional terms.
The setting was visually stunning. The 1930's set of Chicago was remarkably accurate. Nothing in this movie was not 1930's and after its time. We had some old fashioned Fords, Thompson Sub-Machine Guns, and the clothing styles of the common citizen and the high class gangster. And the action sequences were some of the best I've seen in the 2009 year. I was able to feel every individual shot taken from the Tommy Guns, and the Winchester Rifle used by Purvis at the beginning of the film. It was as if I was cowering in the corner actually watching the firefights in person. You could really hear that blood splatter from every impacting bullet. There was also one of the best car chase scenes I've ever seen with Purvis and a body guard of "Baby Face" Nelson having a firefight from the windows.
We had an authentic 30's soundtrack too! We had some great Jazz club music in a club where Dillinger meets his girlfriend, Billie. The music was catchy, dancy, and made you want to move, and worked with every scene it was used in. The film's theme seemed to be "Bye Bye Blackbird", a song done by many artists, and we had a cameo from Diana Krall to sing the song at the club (although there are many other scenes where the movie is used). As a matter of fact, Dillinger's last words before dying were "Tell Billie bye bye blackbird." The song's connection with the movie is that as cocky as Dillinger is, his career will disconnect him from the people he loves and the connection he does form will be what ultimately ruins him.
The Bottom Line:
Public Enemies is, in my opinion, the second truly great film of 2009 (the first being Watchmen). It gives you that real insight into the life of a gangster without diving too much into the personal stuff (the weakness of many gangster films). Another thing that this films does to make it a truly great gangster movie is that it neither condones nor condemns the life of a gangster. No glorification and no anti-gangster sentiments. We have two brilliant leads that were able to abandon their typcasts and become their roles without any outer influence. Depp is purely Dillinger and Bale is purely Purvis. This movie is definitely worth viewing in theaters, and worth the Two-Disc special edition when it's released. While people might not realize it, but Public Enemies is a true American Classic in such a short time of its release. Definitely a 5 out of 5 and one of the greatest gangster films I've ever seen.