Public Enemies
2009
In the shadow of the Great Depression, criminal minds are thriving -- notorious men such as John Dillinger, "Baby Face" Nelson and "Pretty Boy" Floyd -- and it's up to J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI to bring them down in this gritty crime drama.

Scott Hardie: “It was ok.”

Because this is about the mutual understanding and sympathy that develops between a bank robber and the lawman pursuing him, who have only a few scenes together, and because it is written and directed by Michael Mann, it is impossible not to think of Heat while watching this movie. But a key part of Heat's success was the way it alternated between cold scenes with Robert De Niro's rigid, disciplined thief and hot scenes with Al Pacino's wild-eyed firecracker of a cop. Christopher Nolan based the Batman-Joker dynamic in The Dark Knight on Heat, reversing the sides of the law. This time, perhaps because it was more historically accurate, perhaps because he cast the wrong lead actors, perhaps because he's getting mellow in his senior years, who knows why, Mann decided to make both men cold, stiff, and robotic. The result is a lifeless movie that fails to stir the audience or make much impression. Even the prolonged shootouts, and there are several, seem rote.

The movie intends to be deep, but neglects to reveal enough of its subtext, at least to me. Watching interviews with Mann and the cast on the DVD afterwards, I had several epiphanies like "oh, that's what his expression meant" or "that's why he did that." If your movie needs footnotes to be understood, it's in trouble. Christian Bale is a very internal actor who can summon complex emotions, but can't always project them, and his performance here is muddled. Johnny Depp is more than charismatic enough to play the celebrity outlaw John Dillinger, but he's also too smart for the role. We can't buy that this sophisticated man with intelligence in his eyes has spent only a few weeks of his adult life outside of prison, and that he doesn't have a plan beyond the next morning. Marion Cotillard is much better as Dillinger's sweetheart, who's smarter and tougher than he is. A movie about her would have been a lot more interesting.

− February 21, 2010 • more by Scottlog in or create an account to reply

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