Pretty bloodless film, I'd have to say. In regards to blood spilled and emotionality. While Michael Mann's film taught me plenty about the infamous Depression-era bank robber John Dillinger (Johnny Depp) it was more like a history lesson than a bank heist/action film. More cerebral than brawny is the film. It looks great and is educational but I'm sure some fans will be disappointed considering the star power behind and in front of the camera.
Bank robber John Dillinger, amongst his fellow criminals and law enforcers, was considered public enemy number one during the 1930s. His criminal career begins after he helps some pals escape from jail and then they begin holding up banks. Dillinger works throughout the American Midwest and is consistently successful. Due to payoffs and corruption he is able to hide in plain site in big city Chicago. There he meets Billie Frenchette (Mariane Cotillard), who is seduced by this man with a brash personality.
Becoming a real problem for law enforcers so FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover (Billy Crudup) sends in Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale) to catch the thief. Along with some help from the Texas Rangers, Purvis relentlessly pursues Public Enemy No. 1.
Each of the high profile actors in this film has his own take on the character they play and the results are uneven. The film is character driven rather than plot driven and as such it requires strong acting. One out of three is not bad…or is it? Oscar-winner Mariane Cotillard (La Vie en Rose) is riveting at Dillinger's moll, Billie. While her attempt at an American accent is spotty at times her take on the character is bang on. She is beautiful and stunning. Both Depp and Bale decided to go with the laid-back approach with their characters. While that works for Bale's Purvis, it is less successful for Depp's Dillinger. If you read anything about Dillinger you find out he was big and brash. Depp does not go that route and sometimes the film suffers due to this decision.
It never feels like the film is dragging, it is a long one at around 2 ½ hours, and that is largely due to the how visually stunning it is. Public Enemies was filmed in HD, so that accounts for that. It is so clear and crisp that you feel like you are right there as the action is happening. A big part of the film looking great is the costumes. The clothes worn by the entire cast are authentic and great looking. Each of the leads look wonderful and the clothes lend a good dose of realism to the film.
Most of the blame for what does not work with the film must fall squarely on Mann's shoulders as he is co-writer and director. He has written and constructed a film that is full of information but will never have you emotionally invested. Which is too bad because this is a character we all could be interested in and love.
-Larger Than Life: Adversaries