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 blazing in all directions, harrowing prison breakouts and life-and-death chases through eerie woods, I felt like I was "inside" the action.
There isn't much humor in this movie, but what little there is comes from Dillinger himself who is endearingly cocky and overly confident. When he first meets and falls for beautiful coat-check girl Billie Frechette and she asks what he does, he says, "I'm John Dillinger and I rob banks." In that context, I couldn't help but laugh.
Another show of wit was when he sang "I'm headed for the last roundup," which struck me as humorous in an ironic way... Dark humor...or was it prophetic?
Johnny Depp is brilliant in this role; he not only plays the part of Dillinger, he is the man! He's a smart, methodical man who outwits the FBI at every turn...except the last one, of course. His, posture, facial expressions and entire performance are "dead on" to how I think Dillinger would be. Although I abhor his crimes, I feel some sympathy for the hunted, haunted man.
I found it odd that many citizens of that Depression era actually made a "hero" of him, which made for some rather "touching" scenes. One thing can be said for Dillinger, he was loyal to his gang and to his "love," Billie Frechette, sympathetically portrayed by actress Marion Cotillard. Christian Bale was also excellent with his tight-lipped portrayal of FBI Special Agent Melvin Purvis, the man credited with bringing Dillinger down. (The FBI also targeted Pretty Boy Floyd and Baby Face Nelson.)
I admired the agent who kept Dillinger's last, whispered words a secret from the other agents and delivered them to Billie personally. Whether this really happened or was "movie drama" I don't know, but I cried when Billie cried. I bet you will "tear up" when you hear what Dillinger said too. A sad ending, to be sure, but it ended the only way it could--with the message that must be delivered: Crime does not pay!
I agree with Kathleen C. Fennessy from Amazon's product description who says, "...it's still the best mainstream gangster epic in ages and ranks among Mann's finest works." Kudos to Director Michael Mann for his incredible eye for detail and superb casting. A solid five stars for this realistic, exciting movie.
Endnote: The movie is set in the golden era of bank robbers, a time when law enforcement struggled through its dark ages. Police departments were out-manned and outgunned, and J. Edgar Hoover's FBI agents were outsmarted. By the time Dillinger was killed outside a Chicago movie theater on July 22, 1934, his gang of yeggs--the era's name for bank robbers--had stolen tens of thousands of dollars from uninsured banks and shot about a dozen people, including police officers. The movie plays up Dillinger's life in Chicago, his robberies and his charisma, but it also glosses over several key robberies in my home state of Ohio. When I was a kid in Ohio, it was rumored that Dillinger hid-out in my hometown of Hamilton between robberies. A claim to fame? I think not!
Reviewed by Betty Dravis, July 10, 2010 Author of "Dream Reachers" (with Chase Von) and other books
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 … more
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 … more
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 … more
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 … more
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.
BETTY DRAVIS was born in Hamilton, Ohio, one of seven children of John and Felda Barger. Her natural writing ability was nurtured by a “great Ohio school system, caring teachers, and a loving family.” … more
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