5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Perhaps I was not in the mood of yet another gangster movie (and that's what "Public enemies" felt like), but I was hugely disappointed. The script (although based on a true story of Robin Hood-esque bank robber, somewhat of a hero of people during Great Depression) felt recycled and too long. The film lacked tension and drama, there was no spark between Johnny Depp and Marion Cotillard (what an unlikely couple!) and generally I could not feel any empathy towards any of the characters.
There is a lot of [loud!] shooting, but generally the film is dull, and at longer than 2 hours, felt a bit torturous towards the end.
22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on 1 August 2010
I don't know what it is that's missing from this film but there's definitely something, Johnny Depp's pretty good, Christian Bale does his stock U.S. accent and Michael Mann could've left 15 minutes on the cutting room floor but what is actually missing, I'm not too sure.
If you want to watch something about this era of gangster, I'd recommend De Niro and Costner in The Untouchables or go right back to James Cagney but Public Enemies is a bit of a so what film.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 25 April 2013
'Public Enemies' is a widely-overlooked 'true crime' biographical film that dramatises the classic conflict between hunter and hunted. In a similar vein to his 1990s classic 'Heat', director Michael Mann pits the wits of an able criminal mind, John Dillinger (a real-life Depression-era bank robber), against a talented, slightly obsessive, law enforcement officer, Melvin Purvis, another real-life figure who was close to leading federal law enforcement official, J. Edgar Hoover.
The story in both the film and the non-fiction book of the same name is set in the 1930s and looks at the emerging American response to organised crime, spearheaded by Hoover and Purvis. I have some interest in Hoover, who is a fascinating character. The film subtly draws comparisons between "the war against crime" of that era (as Purvis calls it at one point) with the fight against organised crime and terrorism today, though this allegory is worn light and isn't central to the film.
I like films such as this that are brilliant but uncomplicated and respect the intelligence of the viewer in that they concentrate solely on plot and character rather than getting side-tracked with gratuitous violence or some social agenda. It's not challenging viewing, but it's interesting enough and provides a bit of escapism, which is what movies are supposed to do. No doubt this is largely because of who steered this: Michael Mann is a high-calibre film director who never fails in terms of production values.
42 of 47 people found the following review helpful
on 17 November 2009
This film stars a wonderful Johnny Depp who pretty much carries the film for most of its near 2 1/2 hours. It is visually stunning (with a few caveats, of which more later) often compelling, but there seems to be something missing. A lack of "back-story" is not the problem as Depp makes clear in his own mini auto-biography delivered to Billie "What more do you need to know?". It seems to be a problem with tempo and the development of drama. There are too many shoot-outs, too much of a concentration of the scenes dealing with character in the early part of the film, and too little organisation of the order of scenes, leaving the viewer with a film that lurches from one thing to another rather than allowing a dramatic line to unfold.
Christian Bale as Melvin Purvis plays a rather dull character, and Billy Crudup (who "Watchmen" fans might recognise despite his failure here to turn blue and expose his genitals) was more engaging and watchable, for me. But there is no real sense of a dynamic, dramatic conflict between Purvis and Dillinger. Marion Cotillard is quite good as Billie, without conveying much of what is supposed to make her relationship with Dillinger work. It is a film with lots of great scenes, which don't add up to a great whole. Most viewers will surely empathise with Dillinger (the aspect that he is more hated by much worse criminals than by ordinary citizens no doubt helps) but since towards the end he doesn't seem that bothered about what happens to him, it becomes harder for the viewer to care.
On the BD side, this film was shot on HD cameras (apparently the 35mm scenes were tests and did not make it into the film). This makes for outrageously good visuals at times. Winstead bending down to the pavement in close-up, or in the interrogation room with Billie are about as good as HD gets. Almost hyper-real in the sense of depth, plasticity and three-dimensionality. When Mann wants it so, the film showcases the format with natural colours, sharpness and brilliance of image. But at times there is quite heavy filtration, mainly yellow for darker, indoor scenes. And despite the much-heralded grain-free guarantee from going all digital, some of the night scenes have very aggressive digital noise which is more unsightly than most grainy night-time scenes I have recently seen. Audio quality, as another reviewer mentions, is a mixed bag. The soundtrack is 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio - DTS HD here appears to stand for Dialogue Towards Silence Hail-of-bullets Deafening. Every shotgun shell here would do duty for a nuclear explosion in many other films, while the dialogue is far too quiet. I was constantly adjusting volume, which was very annoying.
What remains is an entertaining but imperfect film which has a hollowness, the sense that something is missing and this prevents the film from being as great as Depp's performance deserves. As a BD the sound issue is annoying, but the picture quality is very good, bearing in mind the few caveats above. Worth a look, but don't put it top of your list.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
This film is yet another excellent product by the talented American director Michael Mann (eg Manhunter, Last of the Mohicans, The Insider, Heat, Collateral).
The plot is largely based on fact and studies the latter part of the crime spree conducted by 'Public Enemy #1' John Dillinger in the early-1930s who, together with a motley group of often ruthless criminals, robbed banks with prolific 'success'. In a very similar fashion to the superb Mann film 'Heat', the story simultaneously covers events from both the viewpoint of the gangsters and the FBI agents tasked to bring them to justice by their Director, the infamous J. Edgar Hoover.
The character-study 'slant' in this film is however predominantly biased towards Dillinger (played in a standout performance by Johnny Depp) and his romance with waitress/cloakroom attendant "Billie" Frechette (played with great emotional style by the French actress Marion Cotillard). In fact, this is really the foundation for the film and it could be said this is actually a love story, embroiled in the world of crime.....
The FBI-side of what occurs focuses on FBI Agent Melvin Purvis (played in a relatively-speaking, when compared to 'Batman', subdued fashion by Christian Bale !) who has been tasked by Hoover with capturing Dillinger et al. Whilst his methods are occasionally somewhat 'dubious' he also appears to spearhead what were were probably ground-breaking methods for that era, such as phone-tapping/recording (onto wax disc !) and multi-strand intelligence collation. Once again in contrast to 'Heat', it is the criminal who is this time often audacious and cavalier whereas the face of officialdom is cerebral and calculated; capturing the criminals is almost entirely due to efficient investigation and intelligence-gathering as opposed to lucky moments and by-chance discoveries.
There is a lot of dialogue as the two sides plot/socialise/investigate and, naturally, a large body count as people fall to a violent and bloody death courtesy of the gun.....
Production qualities are very stylish and the effort to reproduce 1930s America are magnificent. An often rousing musical soundtrack supports the action and 'talky' scenes very well, seamlessly switching between passages which are either orchestrally-based or involve convoluted/rapid banjo contributions (very much like in the classic gangster film, 'Bonnie and Clyde' which I think this film gives more than a passing-nod to).
On Blu-ray this film looks beautifully sharp and bright; in fact I think it is the best I have seen in this HD format (even being the owner of superb-looking films such as 'Watchmen' and 'No Country for Old Men'). It could be argued that the presentation is TOO good as the detail is so defined you can easily see the actors have make-up on; it detracts from things a bit to notice Johnny Depp or Christian Bale clearly having 'rouge' on their cheeks or a layer of foundation powder on their foreheads ! However, the sound quality is questionable as Mann has clearly gone to great effort not to have dialogue 'looped' (re-recorded in a studio and dubbed over the video, referred to in film credits as 'ADR'), making it sometimes difficult to hear clearly what someone is saying due to surrounding 'noise'. The best example of this is early on, when it is quite obvious that the microphones recording the speech as Dillinger escapes in a car are on the outside of the vehicle attached to the HD camera, making his voice 'muffled' as there is a pane of glass in the way. As with another Mann effort, 'Miami Vice', I found myself jumping for the subtitle option on more than one occasion to ensure I understood what was being said.....This issue aside the DTS-HD Master 5.1 soundtrack is clear and forceful, especially when the cannon-like 'boom' of a machine gun is in evidence !
Another area where this Blu-ray scores heavily is in the extras department. Aside from a stack load of featurettes there are 3 different in-film options: an audio commentary, an interactive historical timeline and a series of picture-in-picture film production presentations.
In addition to English, there are dts 5.1 audio and subtitle options for Latin American Spanish and Canadian French.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 17 November 2009
An enjoyable gangster flick with a good cast, Mann's latest effort is however no Goodfellas (or even Heat for that matter). We do get wonderful, believable performances from all, although Christian Bale's hotshot FBI agent far outshines Depp's Dillinger in my humble opinion. Stephen Lane also excels as Bale's quiet, cold as ice, hard as nails, second in command (with a heart of gold too it seems by the end of the film). It was also nice to see Stephen Graham make good use of his perfectly cast role as Baby Face Nelson. In general, I believe this movie certainly has enough weight and quality to reward repeated viewings.
However, I don't like the digital video process Mann has used in some scenes, and think they clash rather severely with the standard film stock shots (particularly in the nighttime shootout in the forest - an action packed highlight). They lack the warmth of 35mm, and any bright light sources seem to burn unpleasantly across the screen whenever digital video is used. I have a feeling that we'll just have to get used to it, as we have done for CGI effects - another step back in movie making IMO.
Blu-ray presentation is strong; image quality is excellent with superb detail, although a little inconsistent (grain level can change from shot to shot, and not just because of switching from video to film stock either). Colours are well defined, although (deliberately) muted and slightly sepia toned. Sound quality is hit and miss; dialogue is clear, but the surround treatment lacks a sense of space. Bass extension is also a little disappointing; the horse race scene almost promises to bring the thundering of hooves into the living room, but doesn't quite deliver. Gunfire however, does have a realistic crack and pop in the action scenes.
I found the disk took AGES to load into my Sony player - the longest I have ever experienced. Subtitles (of which there is a good choice), cleverly appeared at the side of the screen where the dialogue (or sound descriptions) were coming from, this must have taken some care and deserves credit. Mann's commentary is also worth a brief mention, although he seems to dote too much on the historic facts of the story rather than his film-making. Ironic, as there are many important factual errors in this telling of the tale. Whatever, he has plenty to say and most of it is interesting - there are no embarrassing silences either for a change.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 7 January 2015
Dillinger [DVD] - Seek out the 1970's Dillinger film with Warren Oates - see product link above -far superior to this rather woolly effort where Johnny Depp simply fails to convince in the lead role.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
A long film ( over 2 hours ) based on the life of bank robber John Dillinger with plenty of A listed stars. It's a mediocre account that tends to glamorise rather than condemn the actions of this criminal and spoiled by too much mumbling and generally poor sound - the background music is too loud and a lot of the dialogue is hard to decipher and in the end you tend to get bored and long for it to finish - that said it's worth watching but not a great film
Johnny Depp and Christian Bale are probably two of the best-known actors around at this time. Between them they have clocked up a wide range of varied characters and have proven their acting might on more than one occasion. Therefore, the temptation by studio bosses to get the pair of them in the two leading roles must have proved too much to resist.
Therefore, we have Johnny Depp portraying real life gangster John Dillinger, with Christian Bale as the FBI agent hell-bent on bringing him to justice. Naturally, as the film’s about Dillinger himself, Depp gets the lion’s share of screen time. In fact, fans of Bale may feel a little cheated regarding how much they get to see the man behind (arguably) Batman’s most successful incarnation. He’s little more than a figure who turns up every now and again to narrowly miss Dillinger. We never really get to see what makes him tick – he’s just a particularly driven lawman, who has to catch his man. I don’t recall ever seeing anything that shows us if he has any real life outside his work.
Depp too feels more than a little underused. Dillinger’s not a particularly nice guy. Okay, he doesn’t rob ‘regular’ people, only banks. But he’s prone to acts of extreme violence and doesn’t think twice about killing if it suits his needs. So the audience might find it hard to relate to him, let alone support him in his side of the story. Depp’s better at playing larger than life characters. Dillinger is pretty one dimensional. He steals and he hits people and has little else to his personality.
I haven’t read Dillinger’s life story, so I can’t comment on how close the film is to portraying the real man, or how accurate is, but there were a couple of scenes which didn’t seem to fit – namely when Dillinger finds it easy to walk among entire departments of the very police officers charged with bringing him in and yet they don’t actually recognise him.
But, despite the film not really utilising its two trump cards, i.e. Bale and Depp, it’s not a bad watch. I’m sure it’s a reasonable account of Dillinger’s life and, even if it isn’t, it’s a decent enough crime drama.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 20 July 2010
As a big fan of Mr Depp, I can only assume that he had something better to do during the time he was making this film.
Little expense appears to have been spared on the production, but alas not to much effect.
I saw the film after having read the book on which it is based, and there for me lies the problem.
The book does not deal just with Dillinger , but tells the story of most of the mobile criminal fraternity,(as against the in-situ Chicago crowd) of which, during the 1930s Dillinger was only one.
He was however the man who most got up Hoover's nose, and as a result became the first of the FBI's infamous 'Public Enemies.'
The film fails to convey the chronic ineptitude of Hoover's G Men, and almost ignores Hoover's own schitzoid personality, which the book covers well.
On a purely personal note,I found the soundtrack narrative to be almost inaudible at times. Not conducive to understanding the plotline, nor to family harmony when I upped the volume too much to hear what was being said.
All in all, a big disappointment; I had expected much better!
If you have a genuine interested in this period of US history which produced not only Dillinger, but many like him, my advice is to read the book 'Public Enemies.'
It is far and away the best of it's kind, and is currently available. (See my review on Amazon)