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Thoughts on 'Public Enemies' . . .

Posted by 2 Dollar Productions Monday, July 13, 2009

Worth Full-Price, Matinee or Rental: Matinee. If you're a Dillinger fanatic, then you could justify paying full price since you get strong performances and a nearly 2 1/2 hour running time, however, I felt the overrall product is only good enough to pay for matinee box office prices.

Will I Own It On DVD: Doubtful. If I can get it for a good price (i.e. $15 or under), then I might grab it on a whim, but I'm in no rush to own the film since I think viewing it one more time will suffice.

1) I wanted to like 'Public Enemies' more than I did. It boasted an excellent cast, a strong director and an interesting public figure that I knew very little about outside of the legendary name of John Dillinger. But even with a long running time, 'Enemies' sheds very little light on Dillinger's motivations and character outside of a few broad entertaining strokes, and reveals even less about Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale), the FBI man who hunts him down.

2) The lack of character depth and details could have been overcome with a more propulsive movie, but Mann directs 'Enemies' in his familiar slow burn style which favors a low-key approach that carves out a fine realistic perspective yet this tone also makes for occasionally flat viewing. 'Enemies' never drags or feels indulgent, however, it could have benefitted from manufacturing more tension in a few places for a stronger overrall product.

3) 'Enemies' also parallels nicely to 'Heat,' a superior cops and robbers saga that Mann directed in the late 90s (?). Both films deal with professionals who take their jobs very seriously despite being on different sides of the law. They both touch on subjects of honor and loyalty and working with a strong crew to succeed. Finally, they both feature excellent actors taking on one another - De Niro and Pacino in 'Heat' and Depp and Bale in 'Enemies' - who unfortunately share only one real scene together.

4) Johnny Depp inhabits the Dillinger character well. It was nice to see him play a flesh and blood person versus a fantasy creation (Sweeney Todd, Willie Wonka, upcoming Alice in Wonderland) as he makes Dillinger easy to pull for thanks to his charisma and live today to the fullest mantra, a theme on display throughout the movie.

The supporting cast is also uniformly excellent with strong turns from Marie Collitard as Depp's love interest, and especially from Billy Cruddup who shines in his role as J. Edgar Hoover.

5) Overall, 'Enemies' is a worthwhile effort that produces consistently good results without ever soaring to spectacular heights. That still vaults it far ahead of most of the other summer films in circulation, and if you keep your expectations in check, then it is a rewarding experience and a fine way to cool off for an afternoon away from the sun.



  1. Heff Says:
  2. I just can't see myself enjoying this film, even on dish.

  3. JLee Says:
  4. Ah, almost beat him again! lol
    This is on my list and I almost picked up the book yesterday in Borders. Maybe I'll catch "Bruno" first. ha

  5. Linda Says:
  6. Your review is spot on. I thought Billie was the most interesting character. By the end you cared more about her than the principles. Kinda too bad the characters weren't more compelling, that's all this film needed to be great. Still not a bad way to spend a few hours.

  7. Heff - DISH might be a pretty good option for a lazy afternoon . . . you might consider it. Some cool tommy-gun action.

    Jlee - Close, very close. Ha. Tell me how 'Bruno' is if you see it as I just can't decide. I'm sure it will have its moments, but probably not as many as 'Borat.'

    Linda - Excellent point on Billie as I should have mentioned that. And yeah, I think if a character or characters would have caused you to invest more in, then it would have had a lot more impact. But as you noted, still a good way to spend a few hours.

  8. KayDee Says:
  9. If Johnny Depp's in it, I'm there. That man has the most kissable lips I have ever seen...gawd did I just say that out loud? Ooops...sorry.

    Great review B and sorry I missed QHF this week. I've been avoiding TV, radio, media of any kind because I just cannot take one more word about Michael Jackson. I'm sorry he's gone and all but enough already. Did you mention him because if you didn't I will go and read it ;)

  10. Miss Ash Says:
  11. I would watch it only for Mr. Depp *drool*

  12. Boxer Says:
  13. this is on my list, but I may move it down to "Matinee Status" after your review and an equally luke warm one from my nephew/BIL. I've always enjoyed the old gangster movies from the 40's and I was hoping this one had managed to embrace some of the grit from those. I'm also happy to see J.Depp break away from the fantasy characters and play a "real" person.

    Why did I think you'd be reviewing BRUNO today?

  14. KayDee - Glad to see you around again, and yes, you did say that out loud. Ha. Don't worry as we don't judge around here. :) And you should probably skip QHF because if I avoided Jackson entirely, then there wouldn't have been a post. I'm tired of it too.

    Miss Ash - Then you might go see this one as he get to wear cool clothes & fire guns, so . . .

    Boxer - Yeah, it's definitely worth seeing, and the period is very cool (as is the soundtrack & clothing). But I know you would feel good about a matinee, less certain about full price . . . As for 'Bruno,' I don't know why but I'm not that excited about it. It just feels a little forced though I know it will be funny (but not as funny as 'Borat' if I had to lay down money.). Too many parentheses in this response. Ha.

  15. kmwthay Says:
  16. excellent review. this movie is on my list to see because I'm a shallow girl and drool over Johnny and Christian. I could care less about the story. Actually, that's not true. I think this will be an interesting story, but I do love all the old gangster movies. This has potenital to live up to the greatness of the classics.

  17. nobich Says:
  18. Oh I really wanted to like that movie too. Well maybe I'll go see it anyway. Sorry I missed Friday too- but surprised no mention of Steve McNair??

  19. Kmwthay – Potential is the key word . . . This one had potential to be great, and I thought it was merely good. That’s not a bad thing as it’s hard to be great, so I think you’ll definitely like it if you go see it & I agree with you the old gangster movies. Enjoy.

    Nobich – Was wondering if you’re were taking Friday off entirely. Ha. And I have been following the McNair story (bizarre & sad), but rarely cross-over sports into QHF. As for the movie, you should still go see it as ‘Enemies’ is definitely a good project, just not as great as I hoped it might be.

  20. I saw this on Saturday. I liked it, but agree that it could have (and should have) been better. One of my friends also saw it with her husband, and said it felt more like documentary at times. I'd have to agree. Still, it was better than going to see Transformers 2.

  21. I'm getting a bit bored of Johnny Depp. I question whether he has much depth, I haven't seen much range in him since Jumpstreet.

  22. Farzan Says:
  23. Good in sights on the film, I'm still going to buy the Blu Ray when it comes out. I don't know why, but I get the feeling the DVD/Blu Ray versions will be superior because of the added deleted scenes. American Gangster was a great film, but I liked it even more when once I saw the extended unrated version. It was just more complete and added more scenes to the movie that should have been their in the first place.

  24. Haiku Master Says:
  25. Depp's success depends
    on odd mix of moron teens
    and aging critics.

  26. Native Minnow - I agree completely with your entire comment (and your friend's observations)- spot-on accurate.

    Getoffmylawn - Oh, I like Depp as he's at least willing to take chances and odd roles despite being one of the most bankable stars in Hollywood right now, so you have to give him props for that. And strangely enough, I've never seen an epidsode of Jump Street even though I've know about it forever.

    Farzan - I think (think?) I'm just going to rent it once via Netflix and not buy it on Blu Ray, although I might change my mind. Thanks for the tip on 'Gangster' as I felt largely the same way about it when I saw it in the theater (good, not great), and haven't seen it since. Now, I'll put it in the Que.

    Haiku Master - He pretty much spans age ranges at this point, which is why his movies have been pulling in so much money these past few years. When you can appeal to teens through the 50+ crowd, then you'll be just fine at the box office.

  27. Amélie Says:
  28. mmmm oh johnny.

  29. Amelie - Knew you'd like that about the flick . . . Ha. Go check it out sometime.


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