i finally had a chance to watch "public enemies" this weekend. maybe my expectations were too high going in, but i was underwhelmed with this film. that's a tough one liner to write since i'm a big fan of both johnny depp and christian bale. on the postive side, bale more than redeemed himself as melvin pervis - as contrasted with his practically dialed-in performance of john conner in terminator salvation. in terminator salvation, bale's performance was upstaged by his co-star, sam worthington. in similar style, bale was much more fun to watch on screen as purvis, than depp was in the title role!
bale's performance had strange echoes of his "american pyscho" persona! i watched transfixed as an apparently mild mannered g-man fronted for a maniacally determined lawman out to exterminate public enemies (regardless of his place on the most wanted pecking order). from the initial nod to modern investigative techniques available to the fbi (a proto war room that would decades later morph into the ubiquitous instantaneous tracking of jason bourne via satellites and supercomputers) - to the more heavy handed insistence that j. edgar hoover approve his request to import the "big guns" from texas.
that was the literal capitulation - following the cold blooded execution of an inexperienced g-man - of hoover's cerebral, detached wish (daydream) that sheer brain power would capture dillinger and his gang. moreover, even when they captured him, they couldn't hold him. they couldn't even keep him in shackles - another excellent bit of symbolism found its way on screen as his lawyer demanded that dillinger be freed of the shackles as he sat in court for the a hearing to move him to a more secure state prison. that small courtroom victory set the stage for depp's second houdini-style escape from a prison.
the cinematography was a mixed bag - a lot of sepia, grey and muted colors set the grim tone (even in the presumably sunny florida and arizona shots). but the skillful use of color was almost outdone by the incessantly annoying handheld shots. once, twice, even three times - then get yee a tripod and save the audience's eyesight. in addition, the movie ran too long. a gratuitous scene when depp/dillinger, just before his final moments on earth, walked into a chicago police station and ambled about the dillinger 'war room' was a surreal fantasy.
was that tacked on to further glorify the dillinger mystique? another, equally ludicrous moment - beware, spoiler alert - had one of the g-men who gunned down dillinger go visit his girlfriend in jail. he went there at dillinger's request, to tell her his last words words, "bye bye blackbird" - what unadulterated drivel. as if that last utterance could somehow convert the film into a chick flick by playing up the romantic in him?! please! one last cavil, it was true that dillinger went to see "manhattan melodrama" at the biograph - but in showing us clips of the film while he sat in the theatre, they were out of sequence!
bottom line, while it was enjoyable, i'd wait for the dvd on this one.