Monday, August 3, 2009

'Public Enemies' is a well-told, violent story that is worth seeing

After weeks of delay, I finally got to see the new Johnny Depp film Public Enemies, and I can recommend it. It does not sniff greatness, but it is a very good film featuring strong performances by Depp as bank robber John Dillinger and Christian Bale as federal agent Melvin Purvis.

Of course, the setting of the film is in the 1930s when robbers like Dillinger were becoming folk heroes during the Great Depression. Purvis was the agent assigned by J. Edgar Hoover to stop him by any means necessary.

The action scenes and cinematography are both first rate. Director Michael Mann effectively uses hand-held cameras to intensify the confusion and fury of the gun-battle scenes. Mann has an impressive resume of films to his credit, including The Last of the Mohicans and Heat. While this film is not in the league of those two, it is substantially better than the disappointing Ali.

If the film has a weakness, it is the lack of character development of Dillinger and Purvis. If we knew more about why they became the men they were, I think it would have added more dramatic tension to the film. Mann opted for a straightforward telling of Purvis' pursuit of Dillinger, and it works. Still, I don't think the film quite became what it could have been.

Depp's portrayal of Dillinger is appropriately ruthless and charismatic. Bale's performance as the stoic lawman is successful as well.

It is rated 'R' for violence and profanity.

For another take on this film, click here.

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