Compelling Theme and Great Actors Cannot Save this Muddled Movie
An enemy of my enemy is my friend. Perhaps that was the logic behind the American people’s support of the killers, bank robbers and selfish philanderers who won hero status during the first years of the Great Depression. Public Enemies, a fictional movie based on fact, set infamous bank robbers such as John Dillinger and Baby Face Nelson against a backdrop of public distrust of the government and banks.
The government named these bank robbers "public enemies," with John Dillinger, played by Johnny Depp, as "Public Enemy No. 1." Ironically, the public saw the government, not the robbers, as the real enemy. The film, however, fails to provide an illustration of the government’s oppression of the people, and the audience is left to sympathize with Dillinger based on his personality alone, which is difficult.
As for Dillinger's personality, he managed, historically, to come out looking like something of a Robin Hood figure. While robbing banks, it is said that he allowed account holders to keep their money, only taking "the bank&'s money"; (which, really, is one in the same thing). The film shoots itself in the foot and unhinges the basis for his positive legacy. During the film, Dillinger admits that he only keeps the public on his side so he will have places to hide out when he is on the run. Also, when asked what he wants in life, Dillinger simply replies, "Everything. Right now." This leaves little room to argue that his intentions were politically or socially motivated, that he was somehow committing crimes to get back at the banks for what they had done to ruin the economy.
The one redeeming quality of Dillinger's personality was revealed when he fell in love with Billie, a hat-check girl in Chicago, played by Marion Cotillard. His devotion to her seemed unbreakable, which was surprising, given the selfishness of his character as a whole. Yet the director of Public Enemies, Michael Mann, portrays Dillinger&'s love for Billie as a weakness, which is typical in this type of shoot-em-up film, for as soon as he begins a relationship with her, his providence takes a turn for the worse. When she goes to jail for him, he forgets his promise to "never run out on" her and goes straight to the whore house. By doing so the audience is taught the film's one true lesson: One should not run around with whores' as this is what ultimately does him in.
As attractive as Christian Bale is, his portrayal of Melvin Purvis, an FBI agent on Dillinger's trail, is forgettable. His character is not fleshed out in the least, and one is left to wonder why, other than to save the FBI's credibility, he is so robotically aimed at capturing Dillinger.
Overall Public Enemies is a shallow film with a lot of machine-gun fire. There are so many people - bank robbers, FBI agents, whores - yet the lighting is so bad and the dialogue so muddled, that, through all the loud, confusing fight and chase scenes, it's simply hard to follow.
This article provided courtesy of our sister site: Beaufort County Now
This post appears courtesy of our sister site, Beaufort County NOW, with their expressed permission.