Thursday, November 17, 2011

Public Enemies

By s. Thursday, November 17, 2011 , , , , , , , ,
44/100 (140 min, 2009)
Plot: The Feds try to take down notorious American gangsters John Dillinger, Baby Face Nelson and Pretty Boy Floyd during a booming crime wave in the 1930s.
Director: Michael Mann
Writers: Ronan Bennett (screenplay), Michael Mann (screenplay),
Stars: Christian Bale, Johnny Depp and Marion Cotillard

 The case of missing script

I remember when back in 2009 I went  to see "Angels and Demons" and "Terminator Salvation" with no expectations and I left the cinema amazed because they turned out to be decent and quite entertaining pictures. Before watching "Public Enemies" for the first time I had very high expectations and when I left the theatre I felt like someone had crashed them completely. Now that I saw the movie for a second time it turns out that it doesn't get any better or worse - it's simply a very forgettable movie and horribly wasted opportunity.

I am disappointed because, as most people, I loved Michael Mann's "Heat" were Al Pacino and Robert Deniro had terrific showdown. The only scene they have together in this movie was powerful and filled with such tension everyone who saw the movie was amazed and years after its release, they are still naming it one of the best sequences in the history of cinema. When I heard that Johnny Depp, fine actor who is not bad to look at and Christian Bale, for whom I'd probably give up my own kidney share just one scene in that film I thought "wow this is going to be exciting!". It wasn't. It was one of the dullest scene of their careers, actually and the point where I begin to wonder whether or not watching this movie is actually worth of my time.

The editing, which was terrible and the dialogues, which were just weak and felt completely forced killed what was left from the film. Because the movie is so chaotic that at one point I had no idea who is dead, who is alive and what the hell is going on. Worse yet - it is confusing - I had no idea why Bale's character didn't just arrest Baby Face at first occasion, I had no idea why Dillinger was so psyched about Billie and many other things. It is my understanding that the movie is following closely what really happened but some scenes in the film were so ridiculous I actually exhaled "Wtf?!" - when Billie is arrested and he just wanders around dozens of policemen with gun in his hand or when Dillinger walks into police department to the room filled with his pictures and nobody stops him. You may recall similar scene happening in "Dexter" back in season 4 when Trinity walked around the station. Only that was actually thrilling and well executed scene and instead of making you laugh like the scene in "Public Enemies" does, it had you on the edge of your seat.

There are moments in "Public Enemies" were you sense that this movie could have been great - some scenes are outstanding - like the one in movie theatre where Dillinger's photo appears on the screen as he sits calmly on his seat. But there are also laughable ones - like incredibly forced love scene between John and Billie - it looks like something the producers throw in to lure all Depp's fangirls all the while yelling not to make it erotic or exciting and urging the actors to stay in their clothes. In the effect we got totally unnecessary scene of Depp and Cotillard rolling around the bed. This is exactly what the fear of MPAA has managed to do to the cinema.

The music was fantastic but it was terribly used - I felt like they played "Ten million slaves" and Billie Holiday's songs on repeat. The shaky hand-held camera made the matters even more annoying. I heard some people actually get nauseous watching this movie and I can't blame them. During shootouts scenes you really can't make out what is happening, also most of the scenes are simply too dark. That style of cinematography works in other Mann's film because they are set in modern times, but shaky hand held camera and jazz music along with old times gangsters really don't match. What did work were the set designs - that is when you can actually see them during the rare times camera is not shaking - and wonderful costumes, that truly took you back to America in the 30's.
Another asset is the acting which is wonderful - Marion Cotillard created very strong character, yet again being the best thing about the film. She is truly incredible actress - she takes interesting person, treated horribly by the writers who for some reason try to make these women into bland love interests - which also happened in "Inception" - and she colors them with all sorts of emotions. Depp wasn't pulling off any of his old tricks and was very effective in his role - you could definitely see the charm that allowed Dillinger to become that famous, the wit and cleverness that got him this far. Although Dillinger does some terrible things, Depp managed to make him into like able character. Christian Bale was as always very good - his character didn't get much development but Bale is one of truly few actors who can give outstanding performance when the script sucks or appears to be nonexistent.

Clearly both actors did their research before making the film, I read that Depp went as far as actually wearing Dillinger's pants. That begs for a question - why couldn't writers do a better job? Why couldn't studio find more appropriate director for this material? The only thing that is truly worth seeing here are the performances, but in neither case they are career best. Even the fans of Michael Mann won't like this one - it's filled with so much, but ultimetly leaves all the characters and viewers in chaos and emptiness.

(One more thing - when the movie ended I nearly said to my friend - "finally! Bale made it unharmed through entire movie!" but I couldn't - a line appeared saying "agent Melvin Purvis left FBI a year later. Then he took his own life". Damnit, Christian! Can't you do a romantic comedy where u live for a change?)

1 comment:

  1. Very good review! But I liked this one much more then you :/

    But I guess that's what makes sharing opinions fun!