The Unofficial 3 AM Cross-Examination of Public Enemies

The Unofficial 3 AM Cross-Examination of Public Enemies

By: Jackie Gonzo


If one statement could but sum up a single film in today’s ever faltering, ever shifting, and ever disappointing business, it would be this simply: Public Enemies restores to the light the classic hope of cinematic art and skill and determination and pride that once made America’s youth dream openly to be filmmakers and performers.

And that you can take to the bank. Warily, of course…

There is nothing but historical inevitability to expect when you arrive at the theater to see this film. There is nothing to be let down by because there are no flighty promises of delivery to begin with. Big Hollywood names shadow each other consistently from scene to scene, technique and creativity travel hand in hand like the criminals and hostages on the running boards of Ford V-8’s, and every gun fired eventually meets its counterpart either within the countless hungry eyes of destruction or the strumming tick of a perfectly timed banjo note. There are chases and tender unkempt pledges of affection, but it all filters together as one impure blend of slaking power.

In the center of which, lies the heart and pinstriped soul, the twisted smirk and the casual taunt of what is sure to be a contending dent in the Oscars this year. That dent, that effervescent spark, rests in the cocky swing of Johnny Depp’s eyes, where it would be impossible for one not to see every underlying mark Dillinger has scratched upon him from the grave and beyond. There’s the swagger, the crooning precision of aim and step and brief happiness, not to mention the square match of rebellion and rockstar-dom that each of the John’s uncannily share, generations apart. Depp is no Clark Gable. He’s no Brando, or Pacino. He’s a breed unto himself, something that cannot be touched, and it is now permanently determined with this film.

From the first moment that he steps inside of the frame entering a jail in the backwoods of Ohio, to the very last when he tumbles to the ground in a gust of his own trailing sin and imprudence, the story is told at large, and even better than that, it’s told righteously. So he may or may not have reached for a gun on that fateful night in inner city Chicago. And he may or may not have been a good guy, a Robin Hood as so many wanted to believe.

To that all I can say is, so what?

John Dillinger is a legend and it certainly didn’t take his death to accomplish that, like so frequently we see with infamy. He was ‘popular’ and ‘wanted’ and ‘appreciated’ long before he even knew he could be those things, for doing the one thing that no other self-enduring man in the Depression Era would: He fought back. He saw immorality and he ventured to chip a few bills off the top of the economic heap, tossing pennies to his farm grown brethren in the process. That was John Herbert Dillinger, and that is what Michael Mann has Mann-aged to piece together with his new summer opus.

He’s examined the period well, he knows the facts, he has the truth, and just like his anti-hero-hero, he’s decided to up and run with it. And boy, are we glad he did. Public Enemies is just what the movie business needed for a lift. It’s a twang, a soft-spoken but unforgotten maze of shootouts and near-catches rather than misses. Supporting Depp is Bale, or Melvin Purvis, who on the definitively Republican side of the law, has been thrown into the mix as the head of the Dillinger squad, in charge of only one task: To bring to justice Public Enemy #1, dead or dead. And as anyone familiar with the details of this case knows, the latter and the former are not always necessarily one in the same with J.D.

Marion Cotillard too, delivers a heart-stomping performance in which she, much like Depp, finds a niche in the talent of acting through her eyes, bearing the frightened spirit of who Billie Frechette really was. She makes the ideal match to the free-wheeling bank robber, both onscreen and in the history books and even those with stone hearts will be more than willing to silently cheer on the boiling romance of these two star-crossed, deviant lovers.

As for the action though, it is no hard thing to come by. The audience is virtually catapulted into the dead zone of 1933, shivering and anticipating the first purr of a Thompson sub-machine gun or the leading snap of a Colt pistol. And when it happens, believe me, you and everyone else, it HAPPENS. There is no pause for thought. There is no wondering or contemplation on the action. It arrives and dominates for seconds, minutes at a time, without taking a breath. Which is not so dissimilar from the well paying viewer. Hands may grip for the armrests, legs will shift nervously at the racketing, honest, real sound of the battles, and it is a guarantee that between those strings of shots, when single spurts of silence fall across the theater, THERE WILL BE HEAVY BREATHING AND GASPING.

And surprisingly enough, it does not ALL come as a result of Depp’s flawless smirk.

Public Enemies can be a date movie, if your date doesn’t survive on a hearing aid. It can be a true ‘guy’s night out’ film, without falling into the category of cliché. And above all else is can be a learning experience, and will be, of our nation’s hidden agenda, it’s disturbing past lessons on the proper, INTELLIGENT ways to operate against hardened, beastly, and devilishly charming outlaws. For other films and directors and actors, a $9.50 ticket to a 2 ½ hour showdown would be a sure fire waste. But in all consideration, if there’s anyone more deserving of a good robbery on the recessed economy this summer, ironically, its Mann, Depp and The Jackrabbit himself.

Grade: Easy A.

Note: The Public Enemies soundtrack is an absolute, music and film lover’s MUST.

Johnny Depp shoots his way through Public Enemies this summer.

Johnny Depp shoots his way through Public Enemies this summer.


~ by roxysparrow7 on July 1, 2009.

One Response to “The Unofficial 3 AM Cross-Examination of Public Enemies”

  1. Brilliant Jackie as always!! And so right..Thanks for posting this

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