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 Depp...it'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!