Sunday, August 16, 2009

Public Enemies (2009) or: I like new movies too

Director: Michael Mann
USA 2009
140 min

I've finally seen it! And I must say that this film was a positive surprise to me. I didn't have any high expectations.

So why did I go see it? Johnny Depp usually chooses his parts well, they seldom disappoint you. And when he chooses to play the charming gangster John Dillinger, I can't help but getting a little curious about it.

The director, Michael Mann, did however lower my expectations. Yes, he made Collateral (2004), and that was a pretty good movie (if you ignore the cliché ending), but nothing more impressive than that. He seems "too American", to me. (Does that make any sense?)

I had a free movie ticket, that made my choice obvious. Otherwise the cinema tickets in Sweden are way too expensive (ca $14).

I guess there isn't much I can say about the film that hasn't already been said, so I will just go with my personal opinions and not dig too deep. I'll begin with the flaws:
  • The camera work was a little too shaky. I liked the mixture of extreme closeups and long shots, and there were a lot of amazing camera angles, but in the actions scenes the camera just confused me. It was hard to understand what was happening with all the quick cuts and the spinning camera.
  • The length. There wouldn't have been any problem to cut it down to just under two hours. What is it with movies nowadays? It seems like all filmmakers try to to make their own Lord of the Ring trilogy. (Which I loath, by the way.)

Trailer: See the trailer, and you'll get what I mean. (Why do all trailers want to "Americanize" the movies? It feels like an insult, to those films that actually has some original parts, to be thrown into the mainstream ditch among all the others.)

Now to the good stuff!


The characters depictions were really amazing. You sympathize with the public enemy Dillinger, just like the Depression era people did and you therefore should.

The relationship between Dillinger and Billie Frechette (played by the lovely Marion Cotillard, who won the Academy Award for her depiction of Edith Piaf in La Môme, 2007) feels real, and contributes to the rest of the story. Christian Bale as Melvin Purvis from FBI was great too, even though he didn't really get the chance to shine.

It felt kind of weird though, the first time I saw Johnny Depp with a machine gun. He hasn't made many action type roles in his life, so it was quite fun to see. And thankfully, he wasn't any Rambo type of an action hero - he was the kind of an action hero Johnny Depp could be. The John Dillinger type.


The cinematography, aside from the, at times, too jumpy camera, was beautiful and professional. The color scheme was romantic, and there was a good mix of close-to-sepia colored scenes and Technicolorful striking scenes (like the almost disturbingly beautiful scene in the beginning, when Melvin Purvis hunts down and kills Pretty Boy Floyd in an apple garden).


Oh, those costumes! The clothes were very faithful to the 1930's fashion, very striking. And I must add here, that if that red dress Marion Cotillard refers to as "a three dollar dress" really cost $3, It's mine.

Everything about the film in this area is thoroughly planned - clothes, cars, hair styles... Well, pictures say more than words:

Manhattan Melodrama:

I was at first afraid that this part of the John Dillinger story wouldn't be in the film. When I heard that it actually was, there was nothing that could keep me away from the cinema.

I was surprised at how much focus it was on relatively small part that it was Manhattan Melodrama [review] Dillinger went and saw (zoomed in newspapers, film posters in the background, etc.), and the irony in Clark Gable's gangster character Blackie's death and the impending end of Dillinger just outside the theatre. I got the feeling that the director admired this film. The popular rumour that Dillinger's favorite actress in fact was Myrna Loy, is underlined in Dillinger's reaction of the film.

And didn't I get tears in my eyes when I saw three of my favorite actors, William Powell, Loy and Gable, fill the screen? Oh yes, I did. And I was probably the only one in the theatre reacting that way. (At least of the people in my age.) When I first saw Manhattan Melodrama (1934), I had no idea that I was going to be able to see parts of it on the screen in a movie theatre. It was an experience I'm proud of.

All in all I really liked Public Enemies. And I will spend many nights dreaming about Johnny Depp in that glorious moustache... Can't wait for Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds (2009), when I get to see a Brad Pitt, who finally has gotten a little older and finally is handsome, with a moustache too.

I just wonder why they skipped the bit about Dillinger going through a plastic surgery to change his appearance. Instead he just grew a moustache and put on some round glasses (no complaints, it was a really good look for Depp). It kind of takes away the purpose of Anna Sage having to tell the FBI she wears an orange skirt, in order for them to recognize Dillinger, doesn't it? Well well...

Now - let's drool, ladies! (And gentlemen!)

Here's a little comparison between the real-life persons, and the people who depicted them in the film:

John Dillinger vs. Johnny Depp.

Billie Frechette vs. Marion Cotillard.

Melvin Purvis vs. Christian Bale.


Mykal said...

Lolita: Great Post! Loved and agree with the "The Good Stuff." ;) --Mykal

MissMatilda said...

fab post adored reading it!

getsbis said...

girl, you are good. I mean, you know what you're talking. I'll be your reader till death.

Christopher said...

I saw this movie last month and liked it ok..I had always been a fan of the 1973 Warren Oats Dillinger movie but never liked the way he treated the Billie Frechette character.You could tell Depp's Dillinger truely loved this woman and I couldn't help but feel he was thinking of her as he watched Myrna Loy in the MM movie which made my eyes water up a bit..

Lolita said...


Great, thank you!

Great Gatsby:
Wow, thanks a lot! I hope I will continue making you satisfied ;)

Yes, I read about that - it was a false rumour that Dillinger used to beat up Frechette, they actually had a great relationship. Besides the fact that he robbed banks and killed people, I mean.
Yes, having the MM ingredient was a brilliant choice of them!

NoirGirl said...

Great review, Lolita! Love all the photos. Especially the comparisons - I had no idea how spot on the actors were!

That $3 dress comment is hilarious! I thought the same thing!

I never knew that tidbit about Dillinger having plastic surgery done on his face. I can see why the filmmakers decided not to include it, though. It would be pretty silly to cast Johnny Depp in the role and have him wear a mask for the last half of the film. :)

The Manhattan Melodrama-on-the-big-screen experience impressed me too. :) I was the only person in the theatre thrilled by those scenes, as you were. I was just a touch offended at how the classic film seemed to be of no importance to the rest of the audience. Ah well. Can't convert them all, I guess!

Oh - and thanks very much for posting the Channing Tatum photo. ;)

Lolita said...


True true... I prefered just putting a moustache on Depp, so I'm happy ;)

Hehe, you're favourite Christian Bale shoots him. He he...

Juliette. said...

Wow, the photos you chose make it look wonderfully artistic. I'll have to check it out. Silly me, didn't even know MArion Cotillard was in it. Swell. :)

Lolita said...

It is pretty artistic! Really worth checking out, especially if you like the 1930's. And Marion Cotillard owns the movie!