Director Michael Mann has had his slip-ups in the past. I mean, come on...what was with "Ali" and "Miami Vice?" But overall, I would consider him one of the dark horses in the world of great directors contest. "Collateral," "Last of the Mohicans," and "The Insider" are all incredible films. However, "Heat" has to be one of the best gangster movies of all time and without a doubt I can say that "Public Enemies" holds up just fine with those. One of my favorite things about "Public Enemies" was the attention to detail they put into it. The movie is based on John Dillinger, who was one of the most infamous gangsters of all time. Johnny Depp plays this charismatic character from American History with his token swagger and suave mumble. His nemesis is Christian Bale (who won't seem to stop making movies!) who portrays Melvin Purvis who was hired by J. Edgar Hoover (Billy Crudup) to hunt him down; dead or alive. Besides the excitement of watching Dillinger scheme and dream his way to infamy, is the sub-plot of the FBI's early days and their use of scientific detecting for the first time. They also got the true life story extremely accurate, all the way down to the colors some characters were wearing at significant moments. But I only know that because I happened to see a special on Dillinger before seeing the movie. If you weren't that lucky, not only will you not notice those details but you also might be a little lost through the sluggish first half. There's no backstory other than a few sentences at the opening, so make sure you prepare for a saga that starts right away. Characters you may or may not recognize from history pop up in the story which might amuse you if you do actually recognize them. One of my favorite moments from "Heat" is the HUGE shootout that takes place in the center of a city. If you can imagine that scene in the 1930s you're well on your way to picturing some of the most exciting gun fights in this movie and in any other movie recnetly too. Michael Mann knows how to do a shootout! He also takes his stab at romance by focusing on the story of Dillinger's real life girlfriend, Billie (who's played wonderfully by Oscar winner Marion Cotillard.) Does he do that well? Eh. Just like Mann's action sequences, he likes to jump right to the good stuff. That sums up this movie as a whole. It doesn't spend too much time developing the story because that's not nearly as exciting as the drama and violence that's coming.
Public Enemies (Rated R)
Gavin Grade: B+