The year: 1933.After plummeting into The Great Depression, America had now become prey to the original public enemies, lead by none other than the infamous John Dillinger (Johnny Depp).As crime sprees sweep across the Midwest, the government turns to J. Edgar Hoover (Billy Crudup) for a solution, thus began the rise of the F.B.I., giving Fed golden boy, Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale), the lead on the case.
Despite what the trailers may portray, if anything, Public Enemies holds equal halves of vintage crime action and heart-wrenching romance.However, director Michael Mann has appeared to leave out whatever folklore that deemed Dillinger a sort of Robin Hoodesque “hero” – instead, we simply get a wonderful raw portrayal of the man in true character, leaving audiences to judge for themselves.And yet, due to creative licensing, this film is less of a bio-flick and more of just a movie “inspired by true events” – thanks to factual errors such as a fictional romance between Dillinger and Billie Frechette (Marion Cotillard) and an early death of “Pretty Boy” Floyd (Channing Tatum) – who actually died three months after Dillinger.
Yet, despite such changes, the film itself has a great story, which is portrayed brilliantly.The dimpled Depp and Southern Bale are a perfect cat-and-mouse duo, as seen in a crucial moment when Dillinger is taunting Purvis from behind bars.And though Purvis himself may have seemed a poster-boy hero, Bale gives him a particular coldness, portraying a diligent hound capable of unpredictable cruelty when necessary.As for our anti-hero Dillinger, as I had mentioned, Depp just takes the lead with a mercilessly raw character with remarkable sincerity.
And though Hollywood has the tendency to glamorize the gangster lifestyle, Enemies refuses to fall through to demands.Even Dillinger realizes that upon viewing a Clark Gable gangster movie – the same night of his brutal death.Sure, the rough and tough attitude along with the infamy and fortune is appealing, but not so much the blatant isolation that soon follows.Mann captures this decomposition perfectly – especially with the help of wavering camera angles, literally throwing the audience into each act of violent chaos.
Overall: an in-your-face drama with a soft side, which in turn captures the essence of an American rebel.
Final Grade: A