FILM RATING: 3.5 stars
Its rare that I actually think a movie should be longer, but Public Enemies (2009) is one of those films. As Michael Mann’s latest contribution to the crime drama genre, starring Johnny Depp and Christian Bale, the movie looks and sounds spectacular! No shock coming from one of my favorite film directors of all time. Mann is a genius at packaging visual imagery, storytelling, music and sound in all of his movies. But Public Enemies feels a little short and abbreviated in its story and character development. Granted, many filmgoers probably know some or all of the story of Depression Era bank robber John Dillinger. But as I watched the movie, I kept wanting to know more about these guys and their stories. That’s why I watch the movies…to escape into the story and relationships of the characters.
Maybe its just that I’m too young to know much about this story and Mann chose to exclude the “obvious”…or maybe the wham-bam-thank-you-Ma’am film viewing audiences of today have finally gotten to Michael Mann like with so many filmmakers and Hollywood movie studios. It seems to me that so many of the action-thriller-drama movies of today are mostly just about finding a fast way to connect one amazing action sequence after another. Throw in a little sex or love story with a hot chic…add some frustrated gazes by the leading man while smoking a cigarette…and any other cool visuals that can transition you to the next best shoot-em-up-and-car-chase scene. Now I’m not saying that Public Enemies is at that extreme because it is definately a much better crafted movie than that. But compared to Mann’s best movies (Heat, The Insider, and The Last of the Mohicans), I just feel a little let down with Public Enemies because Mann has set the bar so high with me for his movies. He’s managed to go an entire decade since I last really fell in love with one of his movies (The Insider from 1999).
That being said…I still think Public Enemies is one of the better movies of 2009. Its more than worth viewing simply for the incredible cinematography and soundtrack. And the story is good…just not enough. I have a feeling that I will appreciate this movie more upon subsequent viewings…as is the case with all of Michael Mann’s films. As an obsessive detail-oriented filmmaker, Mann’s movies are just so packed with “stuff” that it takes time to process it all. And maybe there is more subtext and story in this movie than I think upon first viewing. And watching about an hour of ‘Making-Of’ features on the bluray disc after seeing the movie got me more excited about the movie…because there was a lot more of the Dillinger story in those behind-the-scenes features.
So check this flick out in your home movie theater soon. And if you haven’t seen Michael Mann’s three 90s films…get them immediately for your viewing pleasure!