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Public Enemies August 14, 2009

Posted by Shujath in English, Movies, Reviews.
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If you compare it with any previous gangster flick (the good ones of course), Public Enemies seems rather redundant. It follows every rule in the book including being “based on a true story”. Yet at the end of the film you hardly get to know the protagonist or any of the other numerous characters in this enterprise. Still watching Public Enemies was such a visceral experience that you can’t help but admire it.

It’s a rather bold gamble to visualize the film the way it is but the payoff is superb. Really hard to imagine a film like this to have been shot with a handheld HD camera. I wasn’t aware of this before so it took some time for me to adjust – the opening sequence with those incisive close-ups and jerky movements sets the tone for the rest of the film. The biggest impact of this is evident is those brilliant shootout sequences which get better and better. Michael Mann is a master of such scenes and this is an area he never disappoints. The actual film moves at a rather leisurely pace but never really gets boring.

The talented cast is another reason why this film works. Right from the time the film was conceived, the makers made sure that this wasn’t projected as a face-off between John Dillinger (Johnny Depp) and Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale) – otherwise it would have been a case of Christian Bale being overshadowed by the other guy in yet another multistarrer. Johnny Depp is great as always however like I said before his character isn’t well etched enough so you never really like or hate Dillinger. Marion Cotillard is nice but then it’s such a cliched character you’d have come across so many times before. Billy Crudup as J. Edgar Hoover doesn’t have that big a role, yet I felt he was actually the one who made the biggest impact.

I never really liked Michael Mann’s previous two features but this one was quite exhilarating. Public Enemies is a visually innovative and violent gangster movie where style overpowers substance¬† – and that’s what makes it a memorable experience.