Michael Mannís incredible attention to detail and authenticity rings true in every frame of PUBLIC ENEMIES. The era of Dillinger comes alive in a vibrant and natural way thanks to a combination of the realistic setting and dynamic cinematography. And while Mannís new digital video palette looks a little lackluster in certain shots, it also capture some truly glorious imagery, especially outdoors. But more importantly, itís incredibly exciting to see Mann return to examine the continuum of cops and robbers again, even if the final product feels a wee bit too similar to HEAT in structure. The cat and mouse game between Purvis and Dillinger is obviously the highlight of the movie, with car chases, shootouts and escape sequences masterfully shot only the way Mann can do it. The gun battle in the woods feels so natural, you almost take for granted the seamless technical skill involved.
While Mannís filmmaking shouldíve made it easy to get lost in the world of gangsters and G-Men, the movie just didnít draw me in as much as I expected it to. The script felt straightforward and lacking in any real surprises that could match the excitement of the action. It left me feeling somewhat cold about the characters, their relationships and thus the story as a whole up until the final act of the movie. Depp does a fine job playing the charismatic bad guy, and really seems to enjoy the showmanship of Dillinger, but he was really the only lively actor in the bunch. Bale is again playing a very solemn character, which is fine, except that Melvin Purvis as written is an extremely one-note character. Purvis exists in the script simply to chase Dillinger without any development or other defining characteristics. It says a lot when Stephen Langís assistant character bizarrely comes across as more of a hero and protagonist in the end than Bale.
The other key part that felt off was the romance between Dillinger and Marion Cotillardís Billie. Their relationship felt insanely rushed and I never thought Iíd say this about someone involved with Johnny Depp, but the pair just didnít have a great chemistry together. Itís a shame because their story is the necessary emotional backbone of what is otherwise a standard movie about the men robbing banks and shooting each other.
Commentary by Michael Mann: Mann is so knowledgeable about the movie, the history, and filmmaking in general that itís a pleasure to listen to him for two hours straight. Heís obviously in control of everything on set, and the same goes for the commentary, which he keeps up by himself pretty much nonstop.
Larger Than Life Adversaries (10:19): Great interviews with Mann, Depp, Bale and others about their characters and real life counterparts. You also hear from Purvisí son and the author of the source book to get a different perspective.
Michael Mann: Making PUBLIC ENEMIES (20:32): Mann starts off talking about himself and his cast and crew, but soon everyone begins discussing Dillinger and the filmís plot again instead of the filmmaker. Disappointing.
Last of the Legendary Outlaws (8:44): Cast, crew and subject experts discuss Dilinger and the rest of his gang. Again some of this feels like a lot of repeated info from other featurettes, but this one has more of a spin on the mechanics and methodology of bank robbing.
On Dillingerís Trail (9:46): A featurette about filming on locations, many of which were rebuilt from real places from Dillingerís life, including the real jail where he broke out. A good testament to Mannís attention to detail.
Criminal Technology: It may seem ridiculously outdated now, but at the time Dillingerís crew was all top of the line. Learn how technology made them almost invincible and how local law enforcement had to figure out how to deal with national criminals.
Gangster Movie Challenge: Answer questions about a variety of gangster classics including AMERICAN GANGSTER, CASINO, CARLITOíS WAY and SCARFACE. You can also play with others through BDLive.
Extra Tidbit: Leonard DiCaprio was set to play John Dillinger at one point.