Director: Michael Mann
Cast: Johnny Depp, Christian Bale, Marion Cotillard, Giovanni Ribisi, Billy Crudup, Stephen Lang, Stephen Dorff, John Ortiz
A thoroughly made film starring the who's who of Hollywood. That's how you know you're watching a Michael Mann film. It's usually about two individuals, very different from each other, who cross paths and sparks fly, and they're played by two great thespians and supported by an equally talented cast. Just think of The Insider, Heat and Collateral and you'll catch my drift.
Public Enemies focuses on Depression era gangster John Dillinger, who carried out a series of daring bank robberies with his gang in the 30s. Dillinger was a man with great confidence and bravado, who is skilled enough to break his cohorts out of prison and outsmart law enforcement officers time and time again.
J Edgar Hoover, the founder of the FBI, makes it his personal quest to bring Dillinger to justice, and to that end he assigns Melvin Purvis, a man who is determined and well equipped to track Dillinger down. When Purvis is unable to catch Dillinger due to the incompetence of the agents assigned to his force, he asks Hoover to give him people who can get the job done.
There is also a subplot regarding Dillinger's personal life, where he meets and falls for coat check girl Billie Frechette. Billie finds him charming and falls for him too. However, it is this relationship that eventually puts Dillinger in harm's way, no matter how fast he runs.
If there's one thing Michael Mann is good at, it's bringing his leads to the front. Character driven stories are his forte, and he does a splendid job here. Public Enemies is like a biography on John Dillinger, though it isn't really since it focuses on the last few years of his life. But Mann succeeds in making Dillinger the hero, despite being a criminal through and through. Deep down, you know Dillinger is wrong, but here he is portrayed as a good man who cares for the people close to him, and even the public back then worshipped him as a hero because he robbed from the institutions who couldn't save them from the depression. Kudos also goes to the set and costume designs who are all spot on.
Johnny Depp does it again, is there any other way to say it? Dillinger is nowhere near as quirky as Willy Wonka or hilarious as Captain Jack Sparrow, but Depp is in his element as always, giving Dillinger equal amounts of charm, human compassion and boldness required of a criminal. Christian Bale plays the supporting character here as Melvin Purvis, who is well trained at what he does, and despite his dogged determination, isn't entirely cold hearted as some of his colleagues are. Marion Cotillard also stands out as Dillinger's girlfriend Billie, though her really best moments come in the final third of the film.
With all the drama going on, there is still plenty of room for action too. Considering this is 1933, you won't get high speed car chases and stunts, but there are a lot of firefights going on and lots of bodies going down. Kudos to Mann for balancing that factor equally. Oh, and watch out also for minor appearances by Emilie de Ravin (Lost), Lili Taylor (The Haunting), Leelee Sobieski (Joyride), Channing Tatum (Fighting) and jazz singer Diana Krall.
It's a must watch, whether you're a Depp fan or not. (4/5)