Archive for July, 2009

“This is a stick up! You and your broad get over there you mutt, I’m taking your money, see, and even though this movie ain’t too swell, you’re gonna’ say you like it, or you’ll be pushing up daisies!” Director Michael Mann of Public Enemies.
Was that over-the top? Did I throw in way too many mobster-sayings? Did it sound cliché? Were you waiting for Bugs Bunny to jump out and chomp on a carrot? Well if you said yes to any of these questions, you might skip Public Enemies this weekend.

Despite its amazing cast of characters, a good story and the possibilities of fantastic set and costume design, Public Enemies left me scratching my head. What was it about this movie that made it virtually impossible to achieve a suspension of disbelief?

It wasn’t the plot. The story delivered.

John Dillinger, a notorious bank-robber of the early 1930’s, breaks his buddies from an Indiana jail in the opening scenes. He then goes on a crime spree in Chicago, robbing banks like a gangster should. A team of men, in dapper suits and fedora hats rob big banks in mere seconds with Dillinger at the helm and a get-away-car waiting outside. There are oozies galore and a bit of blood and guts, but it’s not too gory. With characters like Baby Face Nelson and Pretty Boy Floyd on board and a beautiful “black bird” female-love interest to spice up Dillinger’s down-time, I really enjoyed the story.

Character-non-development? Although the character development left a few stones unturned, this wasn’t the problem. We don’t really care why Dillinger did it; we just want to see him do it!

As history remembers him, The Robin Hood of mobsters, Dillinger refuses to take the bank customers’ money, instead only stealing from the bank vault. What a saint! The movie enlightens the audience to only one thing about Dillinger’s childhood—that it was abusive—and we learn nothing of his adult life before robbing banks. But we know this: he’s funny, he’s charming and he’s popular with the ladies, enough for me.

Maybe it was the acting. Or the over-acting of one particular actor—Christian Bale. Yes, this is part of it, we’re getting closer.

Coming off of his blockbuster Batman hit, Bale is a rising star despite his off-screen tantrums. Cast as Melvin Purvis, the FBI agent who lives to bring down criminals and was appointed by J. Edgar Hoover himself, Purvis is not a character-stretch for Bale. It’s almost as if he’s being type-cast as a good-looking justice seeker. (Anyone remember his break-out performance in Newsies? That’s when I fell in love.) But this time, Bale doesn’t have a Batman mask to hide behind and his depiction of Purvis is so intense and over-the-top that you begin to wonder if Bale’s good-guy performance is being pulled from the pages of a comic. I think he even uses the “Batman voice” a few times.

Was it Johnny Depp?

No. He was amazing.

Was it the cinematography or the lack of set and costume-design? Yes. Yes. And Yes again.

I couldn’t believe my eyes. And then I had to hide my eyes because I thought I was going to be sick. It wasn’t quite as “wonderful-nauseating” as a Borne film, and definitely not as Blair Witch grainy and intentional-amateur-esque, but something in between. It was just a mess of awful camera work that made me sea-sick and left me laughing. Everything seemed fake. I couldn’t get into any of the action scenes because I felt like at any moment, we would see the geeky guy that made movies in high school pop out from behind the camera to make his Hollywood-director’s début.

Also, there were no special effects, save one, where an FBI agent decides on a slow-motion summersault through the air before shooting one of Dillinger’s cronies. And my favorite, laughable moment, is when Dillinger is awoken by gun-shots in his Minnesota hide-out. With Depp channeling Jack-Sparrow, the Director quickly cuts to Depp’s crazy eyes when he hears the gun-shots. (My movie-going friend and I bust out laughing in the theatre.) And without going into detail—the set and costume design was weak at best. Let’s just say it was no Atonement.

I blame the Director, Michael Mann for this potential Hollywood-blockbuster’s death. The obituary for this summer-movie could read: “Born to be a Hollywood Blockbuster, Public Enemies died an amateur-disappointment that left this world on the wrong side of equilibrium. Johnny Depp and Christian Bale are it’s only survivors.” And then I’d lay a Tiger Lily at the gravesite.

So should you see this movie?

Absolutely. Ladies, if you can get both Johnny Depp and Christian Bale for the price of one Blockbuster-renter, I say go for it. But save your $17 bucks for a ticket and popcorn for Harry Potter. I’m sure it will have better special effects.


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