Thoughts on: Public Enemies (somewhat vague and spoiler free!)

Just made it back from a night out that began with a 7:10 showing of Michael Mann’s latest, Public Enemies.

With the initial trailer months back, I felt a little underwhelmed.  Mann directing Depp and Bale with Cotillard (who I’ve never watched, but c’mon) and Crudup lingering in the background — I don’t know.  I guess I expected a homerun out of the gates.

Twenty four hours ago, I was pretty excited by the prospect of catching the flick today.  Maybe the weak pallete of summer movies primed me for Enemies.  And certainly, the ad campaign and trailer stock improved from that first look.

So, what did I think?

A solid movie with several terrific moments weighed down by a dragging mid-section and somewhat indistinctive characterizations.

The above mentioned actors all live up to their reputations.  Depp does his magic. Cotillard impresses; she has me interested in her Inception appearance next summer.  Crudup: dude’s a chameleon.  Giovanni Ribisi also pops up a time or two as something of a quiet scene-stealer.  While a big guy, Jason Clarke, who does a convincing job as Depp’s right-hand guy, eerily looks like Newman in close-ups.  (Not the first time I’ve noticed.)

As for Bale, it was great watching him play something a bit different from his stock action hero turn in Salvation and watered down and, to be fair, script-caged reprisal as the Caped Crusader. His stock has fallen a lot lately, some questioning his ability as an actor — rather unjust given his filmography.  Arguably one, maybe two missteps.  He’s still one of the most capable guys out there.

So, the cast performs as well as anyone could want.  But, and it’s not that their written poorly, but their characters fall short of the depth of exploration featured in Mann’s previous works.  None of the characters necessarily feel neglected.  They each have their moments, lines.  They’re each familiar enough.  Unfortunately, we miss out on getting a close peak — that point of losing yourself in the screen, inside characters’ heads.

Mann crafts a well-directed, good-looking pic.  There’s been minor controversy regarding the hd digital photography.  It at first felt unusual with the time period.  A few brief swipes maybe lose the luster of film, but it’s my opinion Mann and his old DP Spinotti did some excellent work with the cameras that also suited Mann’s shooting style incredibly well.   The start of the pic and its finale really satisfy and are brilliantly executed (a number of shots will stay with you for a good long time) with several elevated bits in between.

Overall, Mann’s done better with a similar tale.  It’s a shame the script didn’t quite match its cast and crew.  So, it’s not another Heat, The Insider, Collateral.  But this should be generally perceived as a nice upswing over Miami Vice (a movie I personally enjoyed).

Score: A low-end 8/10

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5 Responses to Thoughts on: Public Enemies (somewhat vague and spoiler free!)

  1. Katie says:

    I agree, it’s not the best movie ever made, but I did enjoy it and I think its well made. You’re right about the characters being a bit underdeveloped, not so you’d notice exactly, just when you think about it afterwards. Although I think Depp adds some weight to Dillinger.

  2. Taos says:

    This summer has been one big disappointment film-wise. Looks like here’s another film i’ll wait to watch on dvd. Good to hear I wasn’t the only one that enjoyed Miami Vice; although, perhaps Jake’s re-quoting of the film afterwards gave it a boost in my mind.

    Still looking forward to the new Harry Potter in a couple weeks. Moon is coming to this area around then too, but i’m not sure if i’ll catch it or not.

  3. Katie says:

    Dear God don’t go see Harry Potter. Moon should be awesome though. Public Enemies wasn’t a disappointment, I really enjoyed it and I’d definitely recommend. Don’t wait for the DVD, just don’t expect it to be groundbreaking

  4. David says:

    Haha. I would like to plant a mic on Jake when he and his date go for ice cream after the show.

    waitress: “That’ll be $6.40. By the way, that’s a really cute dress you have on.”

    Jake’s date: “Thanks!”

    Jake: “Do you wanna fuck with my partner or do you wanna do business with us? ‘Cause I don’t give a shit how you think she looks.”

    Jake’s date: “Ummm…”

    I think Katie’s right. Or at least how big a fan of Mann are you? He does nice work that really stands out on the large canvas with PE. Then again, I never watched any of his flicks outside of home video until Collateral, some of which are my favorites.

    Anyhow, not sure what all you big city folk have playin’, but Public Enemies wouldn’t be a terrible waste of a dime if you’re looking for a trip to the theater.

  5. Taos says:

    Went and saw The Hangover instead of PE; I think I made the right choice. I can’t even remember a funnier movie released in the past decade, but i’m sure i’ll be reminded of something.

    Not a huge Mann-fan. Collateral is my favorite of his. Liked Heat, but not enough for multiple-viewings.

    With way-higher ticket prices down here, we really have to choose carefully. Can’t see everything like we used to back in G-Town. I miss $5 tickets w/ a student discount…

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