Flixchatter Review: Public Enemies

This flix was on my must-see list of this year, and I was determined not to be affected by the mixed reviews. I mean, more often than not, the critics are wrong anyway, so I went in convinced I was going to absolutely LOVE this flix!  Alas, the flix was just ok, it didn’t impress me as much as I had hoped. As I’ve hinted in my previous post about the trailers, I enjoyed the trailer ten times better than the flix, and that is such a pity because it could have been a great one.

The best thing about this flix is definitely Johnny Depp as the notorious bank robber John Dillinger. Michael Mann made Dillinger out to be such a hero even though he’s nothing more than a charming and crafty criminal. I don’t have a problem with that because it’s a movie, not a documentary, where creative liberty is an art form with the key purpose being to entertain. But what I do have a problem with is the fact that the flix never quite got me excited enough about the story nor the character. Even Depp with all his magnetism just couldn’t make me care about Dillinger without a strong script that fully fleshed out his character. On top of that, the pace was a so slow at times that I remember glancing at my watch wondering when it’ll be over. Not a good sign.

I learned as the movie progressed that Dillinger was not an enemy ‘of’ the public, but rather, an enemy ‘in’ public. He lived his live thinking he was invincible, having escaped from prison multiple times, and he reveled in being such an elusive delinquent who constantly one-uped the FBI. In fact, the coolest scenes were the prison escape scenes (especially in the opening of the movie) and when Dillinger stealthily sneaked into public places right under the Fed’s noses. Even as his photo was flashing on the movie theater screens and people were told to look around them as ‘the enemy might be sitting right next to them,’ he was virtually invisible. The camera would then zoomed in on his smug smirk and it was such a thrill because of the way Depp portrayed him.

Another issue I have with this flix was the love story between Dillinger and Billie Frechette, played by recent Oscar winner Marion Cotillard. Such a beautiful couple, but despite their best efforts, they lacked a certain chemistry that’d make their emotional bond believable. I didn’t cry when Billie mourned Dillinger at the end, even as the camera focused on her tear-filled eyes. And most of my friends know I’m such a sob, I cried watching Finding Nemo for shrimp sakes, and those cute animal videos on YouTube!

Nonetheless, what’s lacking in character development, it was largely made up with style. Mann’s glossy 1930s recreation was fantastic down to the last detail: the costume design, the cars, music, etc. – they all worked well to capture the mood and sensibility of the depression era. Love the costumes of the film, all those dapper men in suits, it was like a good long retro GQ commercial!

Besides Depp, there were some notable performances: Billy Crudup was excellent as the eccentric FBI director J. Edgar Hoover; and an unknown actor Jason Clarke was quite moving as Dillinger’s buddy John ‘Red’ Hamilton. Christian Bale was okay as the ambitious but morally ambiguous agent Melvin Purvis, but compared to his other terrific roles, this one was practically forgettable. I can see now why he wasn’t in the promos for this flix. I think his next role as a crack-addict boxer opposite Mark Wahlberg in The Fighter might be something more worthy to sink his teeth into. The supporting cast was full of pretty well-known actors that was unrecognizable at first: David Wendham (Dilios in 300), Stephen Dorff, Giovanni Ribisi, and jazz singer Diana Crall had a cameo as a lounge singer.

In a nutshell, this film could’ve been a classic with a stronger script. As it is now, it’s style over substance, which makes for a fairly entertaining but not memorable fare. If you’d rather see a compelling story with truly believable and affecting characters that’s also based on a true story, rent The Insider instead – my favorite Michael Mann’s flix by far!


Have you seen this film? What do you think of Public Enemies?

Flixchatter’s Must-See Flix for the rest of ’09

The Must-See list in the order of release date:

Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs
Who could resist that pathetic squirrel still on the hunt for his beloved acorn? I couldn’t stop laughing from the moment that thing came on the screen. There’s possible romance for this little guy as well – hilarious mayhem can’t be far behind.

Public Enemies
Depp. Bale. Michael Mann doing what he does best. The trailer looks positively awesome! Based on a true story about a charismatic bank robber set in the Depression era. It’s a wild goose chase to outgun and outwit each other. I’m so there.

The Time Traveler’s Wife
(See my post about it earlier). I’ll see this on account of Bana, and the story promises to be a gut-wrenching drama. I REALLY want to like this one, I hope it doesn’t disappoint.

Avatar
Say what you will about James Cameron but he’s a moviemaking genius. A decade after Titanic, he’s back at the helm in one of the most ambitious projects to date. Set in a distant planet inhabited by a humanoid race, it’s filmed with ‘steroscopic 3D’ which basically means it mixes live-action and CGI more seamlessly. What I’ve heard so far promises this to be an epic thrill-ride. Count me in!

Sherlock Holmes
Robert Downey Jr. plays the fictional detective with Jude Law as his BFF Watson. Downey is always enjoyable to watch, and the trailer looks like fun. Sure Guy Ritchie’s done some unwatchable stuff in the past, but this very British story looks like something right up his alley.


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Honorable Mentions:
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(500) Days of Summer
We all know Joseph Gordon-Levitt has come a looooong way from his 3rd Rock From the Sun days. IHMO he’s one of the most talented young actors working today. This is an offbeat rom-com in the span of one Summer. The tagline says: “Boy Meets Girl. Boy falls in love. Girl doesn’t.” I’m hooked.

The Ugly Truth
Now, those who know me probably thinks this SHOULD have been on the main list. GB has great comedic timing and looks like he and Katie Heigl has great chemistry. But this looks an awful lot like Someone Like You (Hugh Jackman + Ashley Judd). So it depends on what the reviews say, but I’m not rushing to see this one on opening nite.

Nine
Daniel Day-Lewis in a musical by the director of Chicago? Hmmm, that I gotta see. It boast a great cast who play all the women in the protagonist’s life: Judi Dench, Nicole Kidman, Penelope Cruz, Sophia Loren, to name a few.

Welcome to my debut blog!

Welcome to my blog debut, yeeha! I’ve been wanting to write a blog for as long as I can remember, but the old, tired excuses of being ‘too busy’ is holding me back! Well, this afternoon I had an assignment to actually design a blog for my client. After 15 minutes tinkering around in WordPress, voila, I did my first blog!

Well, not wanting to lose the momentum, I went home and start my very own. Believe it or not, a year ago I started jotting down the name I want for my blog (luckily it’s still available!) and what I want to put in it. Seems like I’ve always been emailing people about all sorts of flicks news so why not compile it in a blog? To those of you who’ve said I should write a blog on films, here ya go. So please post your comments, k? I’d REALLY appreciate it.