Saturday, June 20, 2009

A Public Enemy Worth Cheering For

Summer time at the movies usually means lots of explosions, car chases and lots of movies aimed at the younger audience. Sometimes though we get a movie that opens amidst all the hoopla that turns out to be the summers best. "Public Enemies" will be that film this summer. Public Enemies was filmed right here in Chicago by long time Chicago native Michael Mann and tells the story of the legendary Depression-era bank robber John Dillinger who became the F.B.I.'s public enemy number one.

It's the early part of the 1930's and the depression is rocking the country, a group of notorious outlaws are being hunted by a new department created by J. Edgar Hoover (Billy Crudup), leading the Chicago branch of what will later become the F.B.I. is Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale) who is tasked with capturing America newest public enemy number one, John Dillinger (Johnny Depp). We first meet Purvis when he is chasing down another one of America's worst criminals, Pretty Boy Floyd (Channing Tatum), Purvis is cold and efficient in his duties, he offers Floyd the one chance to give up and when he refuses Purvis cold bloodily kills him. Dillinger's gang, that at the time included, Homer Van Meter (Stephen Dorff ), Pete Pierpont (David Wenham), and John Madala (Shawn Hatosy), Dillinger's mentor Walter Dietrich (James Russo) dies in one of the several daring prison escapes planned or attempted by Dillinger. This group was responsible for several daring day time bank robberies, Dillinger refused to take the customers money, just the banks, this was one of the reasons that Dillinger was endeared by the American public and his ruthlessness was what made him a target for every law man in the country.

Dillinger hid out among the people, he said that the he could hide out in the open only because he didn't do anything that would turn the people's opinion against him. Some of his friends, Alvin Karpis (Giovanni Ribisi) tried to enlist Dillinger in a kidnapping attempt, Dillinger refused because he believed that America didn't like kidnappers. Dillinger had no problem taking hostages in order to walk out of a bank, he did this in every job, the police usually wouldn't shoot at them if John Q. Public was standing in front of them. When Purvis was tasked with apprehending Dillinger he took the job to heart, he enlisted the aide of several tough law men from Dallas. Charles Winstead (Stephen Lang), Edwin Norris (Luce Rains) and (Matt Craven) were brought in after a daring attempt by Purvis and his outfit to capture Baby Face Nelson (Stephen Graham) goes wrong and a member of Purvis unit is killed. Carter Baum (Rory Cochrane) was the long time partner of Melvin Purvis and he took it literally to heart when he was killed.

Attempt after attempt was made to capture Dillinger, after a day light bank robbery goes wrong, Dillinger is wounded and needs to hide out, the mob has turned against Dillinger and his fellow outlaws because the F.B.I. are making new laws that will have an effect on their businesses. Frank Nitti (Bill Camp) informs all of Dillinger's old friends including Gilbert Catena (Domenick Lombardozzi) who works for underboss Phil D'Andrea (John Ortiz) to cut off any one connected with Dillinger. A late night raid ends in the capture or death of every member of Dillinger's gang, this leaves him with no option but to return to Chicago to pick up the one girl who he has fallen in love with, Billie Frechette (Marion Cotillard) and Purvis knows this.

The inevitable comes when Dillinger is caught outside of the Biograph Theatre, Purvis who usually offered the gangsters he apprehended a chance to give up had no time to make Dillinger the offer. The death of one of America's biggest outlaws is dealt with in a classy way, Michael Mann never goes over board with the violence we get in your face reality but it isn't over the top in your face graphic. I do hate to give away the ending, but the good guys win. And along the way you the movies watcher wins as well, this is as entertaining a movie as you are likely to get all summer long. Long time Mann Cinematographer Dante Spinottie gives us just enough shots that give a reality to the violent story of the life and death of Dillinger. The one thing that will inger long after the movie is the subtle soundtrack that is persistant throughout the movie, the little news tidbits heard over the radio are also a very nice touch to showcase the era this movie is trying to capture.

I give Public Enemies a 4 and on my avoidance scale a 0, this movie has something for everyone, understand it is a violent movie, the life and times of the characters demands that it be held to truth and not fiction. I can not recommend this movie any more, GO see this fantasticly well crafted cat and mouse of a movie.

Public Enemies is rated R for Ganster Violence and soem Language
Running time is 2 hrs. 23 mins.

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