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That’s right! I said it, “Enema’s,” cause that’s what it felt like when watching this film. Public Enemies was a very disappointing film that lowered my expectations. We won’t talk about the fabulous acting because we already know that these actors can portray magnificent characters. Johnny Depp (John Dillinger) and Christian Bale (Melvin Purvis) have sensational talent that allows them to invisibly fall into a character and get lost in the moment. We have no problem with the great acting in the movie. Billy Crudup (J. Edgar Hoover) can play with the best of them as well. He just impresses us over and over. So, it is not the acting or character work that is the problem with the movie, it is the convoluted script that takes the audience in a whirlwind of events.
The movie opens in 1933 with Dillinger being taken under arrest to a penitentiary by a prison officer (Jason Clarke; later identified as his partner in crime John “Red” Hamilton) who helps Dillinger plan an escape for the rest of their gang members. During the escape, a massive shootout ensues resulting the mentor (Walter Dietrich; played by John Russo) of John Dillinger to get killed. After Dillinger beats and disposes the gang member who caused the shootout, they head to a safe house to recollect themselves before they head off to begin their multiple bank robberies. Elsewhere, we meet FBI agent Melvin Purvis who is in pursuit of another criminal Pretty Boy Floyd (Channing Tatum). In an act of self-defense, Purvis shoots Floyd in the abdominal area causing him to quietus. J. Edgar Hoover is deeply impressed by this slaying that he promotes Purvis to the task to search for Dillinger (America’s Most Wanted Criminal). After Dillinger’s first successful bank robbery, he paints the town by celebrating with his miscreants in an upscale nightclub. There he meets his love interest (Billie Jean: kidding! Billie Frechette: played by Marion Coillard) and he takes her on a ride on his notorious adventures.
Honestly, I didn’t really go into detail of the story because I didn’t know what was going on during the entire grueling film. It was hard to follow because the story was not only mundane but also exceptionally bewildering. I didn’t understand why Dillinger was upset when his mentor dies because I didn’t know that Dietrich was his mentor. There was not a strong relationship built between the two to realize that he was his mentor. I just thought that he was just another gang member.
This film had too many unnecessary scenes with the FBI agents sitting around in their office talking unavailing dialogue. In one of the scenes, Dillinger walks into a police station for some unknown reason (I believe it was to tag along with his partners sibling Polly Hamilton; played by Leelee Sobieski) and looks at his criminal photos. At one point, he asked the police officers a question. Granted he was in a deplorable disguise, the officers did not even recognize him. The only difference that hid his appearance was the tiny moustache covering his identity! That is absolutely ridiculous!
The real issue about the film is not the baffling script but the horrendous cinematography. The film starts off with decent camera work and lighting. As soon as we enter the big gun fight battles, the quality of the picture goes from beautiful to downright atrocious. The gun fights looked liked a horrible reenactment from the television show “America Most Wanted.” The sound quality wasn’t any better. The audience could barely hear the dialogue and I believe the theater had the volume on full blast.
The most shocking notion about this film is that the budget was 80 million dollars. Michael Mann must have paid 25 million dollars each for the two A-list actors. Then ten million split for the rest of the crew. He spent Another 15 million for the cameras, costumes, old cars, etc. Rumor has it that Johnny Deep got to touch and play around with John Dillingers real possessions (clothes and guns) which probably cost Mr. Mann another 4 million. So, that leaves Mr. Mann with one million dollars to spend on the film in order to actually make the film in the highest quality of “America’s Most Wanted,” episode. Those criminals split 80 million dollars, I feel like I got robbed!