Sunday, July 5, 2009

Nog Takes on Public Enemies!

Sure, it's a little disappointing that Michal Mann's spin on the Dillinger story didn't produce an instant gangster classic, but if you can get beyond the fact that this isn't a Godfather (or a Goodfellas, or a Miller's Crossing, or even a Heat), there's plenty to enjoy here.

Mann, apparently, has decided to shoot only in digital these days, which I find somewhat annoying but does produce a distinctive look (a sort of hyper-real clarity to long shots and nighttime shots, combined with up-close kinetic camera movements in the action scenes, most of which are pretty fluid and easy to follow, unlike the incomprehensible editing of something like Transformers II). Probably Mann thinks it gives the film an amazing docu-drama feel, and sometimes it does. At other times, things just look...sort of weird.

Many critics are faulting the fact that we're kept at an emotional distance from the characters, and this is true, though almost certainly intentional. Mann isn't interested in Dillinger's back story and neither is his Dillinger (generally well-played by's nice to see him in something besides a shitty Pirates film for a change). In a speech that sort of oddly resembles Kevin Costner's famous manifesto in Bull Durham, Dillinger dismisses his past ("My daddy beat me because he didn't know how to raise me better") and insists he lives completely in the moment ("I like baseball, movies, whiskey, fast cars, and you"). [yeah, these are paraphrased...I'm lazy and have no readers].

But despite the emotional disconnect, there are interesting ideas here. As the plural title suggests, Mann is interested not just in Dillinger, but in the way that the era's law enforcement system was transforming into something just as corrupt as the criminals they are chasing (Billy Crudup as J. Edgar Hoover is underused but highly entertaining). And Mann and Depp's take on Dillinger finds a little substance under the surface flash: he's a man fascinated by his own ability to hide in plain sight, to live a criminal life in the public eye. Yet Mann never offers much insight into what the public thinks of Dillinger (perhaps wanting to avoid the sort of Bonnie and Clyde-ish emphasis on the folk-hero aspect of the era's bank robbers).

A mixed-bag, no doubt, but obviously deserving a look from any serious filmgoer.

Now, bring on Bruno!


  1. Well, I read these things (and check in at the highly amusing "Chronicles"), even though I've all but stopped going to movies altogether. Not even a gangster movie could get my ass to the theatre this week. Maybe next week. I'll probably end up seeing PUBLIC ENEMIES -- doesn't Channing Tatum have a small role? (But BRUNO is a must.) I guess the trauma of Ridley Scott's AMERICAN GANGSTER (in that it kind of. . .sucked) discouraged me from seeing this new one. But.

  2. The Chronicles is the most important!

    Yeah, what's up with your non-moviegoing these days?

    I only vaguely know who Channing Tatum is, but apparently a lot of people had cameos in Public Enemies that didn't completely register for me.

    I was largely disappointed with Am. Gangster as well.

    Bruno better be mercilessly funny. Something has to redeem the summer movie season competely.

  3. I haven't seen this (yet?), but I too was happy to see Johnny playing a part that isn't Captain Jack Sparrow. Looking forward to Alice in Wonderland.


  4. I enjoyed Public Enemies pretty well. It was interesting and enjoyable, and seems more interesting as the days pass. The Dillinger plot was weak, but the way the movie was infused with the surroundings was great. I would've loved to see more of Hoover--I think those parts were the best thing about the movie. I think it makes an excellent choice to use for your new banner. The use of contemporary culture through radio & movies was also really well done. I liked the way that every time the radio was used for exposition, we also heard a little bit more about the next story. And getting a chance to see Myrna Loy on screen so much at the end was really cool, especially because we were seeing her through Dillinger's eyes. (Maybe I'll have to see that movie. She and William Powell make a great team.)

    I'd recommend this movie, for sure.