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2009 gangster film, directed by Michael Mann, and starring Johnny Depp and Christian Bale.

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Nothin' to write Johnny about

  • Jul 13, 2010
Michael Mann's gone from being an innovator in what is often called the Mtv style of the 80's (think pastels and rain-soaked streets) to one of the most forthcoming in the use of digital video. Whether you liked his 2006 Miami Vice revamp (like me) or hated it (like everyone else), one thing that must be acknowledged is that it doesn't look like any other flick. The smoothness of movement in the format (accentuated by Mann's often questionable choice of having it overtly handheld with bumps and jarring movements within the frame) seems the perfect 21st century counterpart for the high tech equipment and technical garble that Jamie Foxx and Colin Farrell spout throughout the movie. So, acknowledging all of this, how does this format work when the setting is switched from 2006 Miami (a place that seems ultra-modern) to Depression-era Chicago? I ask this question primarily because Mann mostly uses the same guns in his holster to shoot Public Enemies. Despite all of the grimy takes on period dramas lately (think The Proposition or, even better, Deadwood), Public Enemies might be the first time that what I'd say is a modern aesthetic was fully applied to a period narrative. Grimy locales and filthy dialogue are surely later takes on that social milieu, but the aforementioned titles are done largely using basic aesthetic strategies. In Public Enemies, Mann takes the sloppy, handheld look and the motion-blurred yet strangely smooth DV motion and applies it to a historical narrative.
"Historical narrative" is the important word here because it's not the narrative or its time period that creates the tension between the new technology and the period piece in Public Enemies. However, the trappings of the historical narrative as applied to film, namely in terms of costuming, art direction, and set design, create a certain disjunction that, I suppose, film could suture in the past with an aesthetic of chiaroscuro lighting, smoke and fog, and the comparatively mirage-like movement created by celluloid. That's not to say that HD digital video and a period setting are incongruous in general, but the scrubbed-clean costumes, the oddly artificial sets, and the studied Hollywood dialogue do not seem to suit this new aesthetic, to an extent that I spent the first forty-five minutes of the film attempting to get used to the style of it. Needless to say, outdoor scenes of action fared better (is there anyone working in Hollywood now who can shoot an action scene as confidently and wonderfully as Mann? Don't think so). 
And when the DV works, Mann approaches creating something like a new aesthetic. The close-ups in this movie are numerous and, owing largely to a talented (and beautiful) cast, rewarding. Individual moments, a great underslung shot of Depp leaping over a teller's booth, have a certain stamp to them that makes one wish Mann would have strove for the whole film to make this kind of sense. Instead, it falls somewhere between a costume drama and a tightly-reined, digitally shot piece of gangster cinema.

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More Public Enemies (2009 movie) reviews
review by . August 09, 2011
WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS      As Michael Mann is no stranger to the topic of career criminals, it seems as though John Dillinger's famous two-year crime spree would be the ideal subject for a filmmaker whose best work has often focused on tragic, principled professional felons. Dillinger burned hot and fast, and the brisk pace of this feature's 140-minute running time reflects the rush of his famous final years. However, Mann's attempts to romanticize …
review by . July 05, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
   Director Michael Mann’s “PUBLIC ENEMIES” is based on the conscientiously researched book by Bryan Burroughs that chronicles the epic manhunt for infamous bank robber John Dillinger. The movie is faithful to its source material, it offers nothing else but an abstract impression on the life of the notorious criminal and misses the mark in becoming an intimate docudrama. Set during the depression era; a period when outlaws like Dillinger were seen and envied as rebellious …
review by . July 10, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
When this movie came on TV tonight, I was pleasantly surprised. I had heard and read the tragic story of John Dillinger all my life and since I missed Public Enemies (Single-Disc Edition) when it came out in 1999, I stayed riveted to the TV.    With a nation-wide man-hunt on for Public Enemy No. One, notorious bank robber John Dillinger, this drama takes the viewer along for the bloody, horrific ride. Throughout the tense action of brutal bank robberies, street warfare with Tommy-guns …
review by . July 04, 2009
   Those who liked Leo DiCaprio's Aviator will love this film with Johnny Depp as Dillinger and Christian Bale as the relentless Melvin Purviss who is perusing him. The movie is filled with jailbreaks, bank robberies old fashioned shootouts (though it seems that nobody every chases fleeing felons in cars).       Incredibly interesting the way Mann presents the birth of the FBI. The agents use Sherlock Holmes type tactics (the agents would make perfect computer geeks …
Quick Tip by . July 26, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Johnny Depp delivers in this beautifully shot movie. Many people might be suprised at the pace of the movie, which is slower than an action movie, which is not how I would classify the movie. It is an excellent portrayal of the period.
Quick Tip by . January 23, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Mann's uneven film biopic of the gangster John Dillinger. Nice cast, but lacks depth. Ultimately not a bad film but not a great film either.
Quick Tip by . December 22, 2009
Watched this on the plane, just not my kinda movie although it's probably a guy's favorite.
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I'm a 22-year-old college drop-out due to personal philosophical revelations. Now I work at a big "K"orporate mart. I've found that my worldview has started to change quite drastically … more
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Stills from Public Enemies (Click for larger image)

Public Enemies is a 2009 film directed by Michael Mann, an adaptation of Bryan Burrough's non-fiction book Public Enemies: America's Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933–34.

The crime drama is set during the Great Depression with the focus on the FBI agent Melvin Purvis's attempt to stop criminals John Dillinger, Baby Face Nelson, and Pretty Boy Floyd. Christian Bale plays FBI agent Purvis, Johnny Depp plays Dillinger, Academy Award-winner Marion Cotillard (La Vie en rose) plays Dillinger's girlfriend Billie Frechette, and Channing Tatum plays Pretty Boy Floyd. Principal photography began in Columbus, Wisconsin on March 17, 2008[4] and continued in Chicago, Illinois; Oshkosh, Wisconsin; Beaver Dam, Wisconsin; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Madison, Wisconsin; and several other places in Wisconsin until the end of June 2008, including the Little Bohemia Lodge in Manitowish Waters, Wisconsin, the actual location of a 1934 gun fight between Dillinger and the FBI.[5] Some parts of the film were shot in Crown Point, Indiana, the town where Dillinger was imprisoned and subsequently escaped from jail.

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Director: Michael Mann
Genre: Action, Crime, Drama
Release Date: July 01, 2009
MPAA Rating: R
Screen Writer: Michael Mann, Ann Biderman
Runtime: 140 minutes
Studio: Universal Studios, Relativity Media, Forward Pass, Misher Films, Tribeca Productions, Appian Way, Dentsu
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