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Movie Review: Public Enemies

Took in Michael Mann’s latest movie tonight… Public Enemies, or as I’ve thought of it for ages, “Heat in the 1930s”. And while I can’t really say it’s as good as Mann’s 1995 epic, Public Enemies is still pretty decent in its own right, with some excellent performances, some great production design, and some Heat-worthy epic action set pieces.

Public Enemies is a retelling of the Depression era crime spree of John Dillinger and various other cohorts and partners in crime at the time, including Baby Face Nelson and others. It was a vivid and nasty time, where the poverty of most led to the lionisation of many of these criminals, and the media was obsessed with them. At least that was familiar…

Johnny Depp is tough but aloof as the lead, Marion Cotillard is appealing (and not at all French) as love interest Billie Frechette, and Christian Bale is his now classic tough, resolute and single minded law enforcer, this time and early FBI agent. Highlight smaller roles include Aussie David Wenham as one of Dillinger’s gang, Stephen Lang as one of the FBI’s early badass enforcers, and Billy Crudup as the young but always odd, J Edgar Hoover (in a rare depiction of Hoover as a younger man).

Mann’s always had a knack for action scenes, and Public Enemies is no exception. There’s several big bank robberies, a great night siege and shootout, and the finale where… well, it’s not like anyone doesn’t know Dillinger’s fate, especially when he steps out of the Biograph Theatre…

I read quite a few cinema pros who whinged about Mann’s use of digital video in the production, and how it somehow limited the look of the film, but I don’t know, it didn’t worry me at all really. Not something for the average cinema goer to really see. So no real issues there.

Public Enemies is a decent film — a good historical thriller and action movie. Not as brilliant as Heat, but what is? Three and a half stars.

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