Thursday, July 23, 2009

Public Enemies

Michael Mann's "Public Enemies" takes you into 1930's America, when John Dillinger was at large and when the FBI was having its beginnings. It's a fast-paced, crudely edited film that fails to engage the viewer much until it's anticlimactic climax. If there had been perhaps more time spent in the cutting room on nicer cuts, that would be a plus. For I believe there were only a couple scenes in the entirety of the film that didn't contain a flaw, whether it be a misplaced score track, or a too-long-running musical track, or some sloppy editing. This last complaint could be attributed to the fact that there are two editors and thus two different editing agendas, one editor who's worked with Mann a few times before (Paul Rubell), and one who's been with a few different directors (Jeffrey Ford).

Well, "Public Enemies" definitely does have potential, but it chokes itself with these clipped scenes and other technical mishaps, even in the fights that should have pushed it over the top. John Dillinger is Johnny Depp, inspired casting based on photos. In the film's first distracting and disengaging moments, Dillinger gets some criminals out of prison. Why I mention this is that this is our first brush with Dillinger, which should be alluring, but the film fails to make it so. Next, we are introduced to the sharpshooting eye of Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale) as he's gunning down Pretty Boy Floyd (Channing Tatum). I do not believe that we get much more than that on him. Neither do we get anything on Dillinger, except for a flashing moment of backstory. We get as much as his love interest Billie Frechette (Marion Cotillard).

Anyways, J. Edgar Hoover (Billy Crudup) declares "the United States of America's first war on crime" and sets up Purvis as the head of the Chicago branch. From here on out, its a quest to catch Dillinger before he robs a lot of banks and gets away to "farther than Cuba." Is this all that entertaining or stimulating? Stimulating, perhaps. There is one fantastic scene done in the woods where Dillinger is hiding out from the feds. The editing, cinematography, and sound design all hit high peak together, and the result is magnificent. Nothing else in the movie gets close to this, and that proves for a mediocre, considerably lengthy (143 minutes is too long for the film this is), and bland Dillinger mini-biopic that's weak in the ouevres of all its participants, especially Mann. "Public Enemies" has its chances, but most are squandered, which is sad, because there seems to be some good here. C

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