Let me start by saying I am a big Johnny Depp fan. I loved him in “Chocolat” and “Finding Neverland”, even the “Pirates of the Caribbean” trilogy. He’s one of those actors who can read a phone book and I will watch. But his latest film “Public Enemies” is, sadly, a bore, particularly when he is not on the screen. The basic story is 1930s USA, John Dillinger (Johnny Depp) is a bank robber. Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale) is a hot shot G-man on his trail and Billie Frechette (Marion Cotillard) is the poor hat-check girl Dillinger falls in love with.
I was kind of hoping that with the love story and all it could have that chick flick element along side the gangster story, but I was sadly mistaken. Except for a single moment when Dillinger cries, the film has no emotion; not in the love story nor in the G-man’s pursuit of his prey. Christian Bale as Agent Purvis is a total yawn with a strange accent that comes and goes. And the look of the film is just sloppy with grainy shots and strange camera angles for no reason whatsoever. Even the shoot-outs are somewhat dull which is surprising coming from director Michael Mann. Dillinger was a folk hero during his run, supposedly robbing banks but leaving the customers alone with their money, a regular modern day Robin Hood. But this film doesn’t even get that part of the story across. None of the characters are really fleshed out enough to care about. I could see where they were trying to go, to show the two men each intent on their goal — the stand-up guy Purvis trying to catch Public Enemy #1 for his boss J. Edgar Hoover and gangster with a heart of gold Dillinger attempting that final one big haul so he could run off to South America with his girl. But the characters are so poorly drawn, the audience here is really given no one to root for. It should have had tension, a question mark. Even though anyone who knows anything about the story knows Dillinger loses, a better filmmaker would have had the audience hoping right up until the end. Michael Mann, who is usually a much better director, lost his way with this and all I could do was wonder when the movie would end. Don’t waste your time.