Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Public Enemies

Directed Michael Mann

Written by Ronan Bennett and Michael Mann

Starring Johnny Depp and Christian Bale

I think everyone can agree that 2006's reenvisioning of Miami Vice was Michael Mann's big career flop, luckily he learned from his mistakes and has redeemed himself in this years crime drama Public Enemies. Its the true story of John Dillinger (played by Johnny Depp) the notorious bank robber from the 1930's, being chased by an FBI squad led by Melvin Purvis (played by Christian Bale).
All of the performances in this movie were wonderful. It's great to see Depp in a darker, serious role than what he has been doing the past few years working with Disney and Tim Burton. And Christian Bale leaves behind his Batman-car-muffler voice to play a down to Earth FBI agent. The rest of the characters and the story are very engaging and should keep the audiences attention throughout the movie.
What Mann's highest strength as a filmmaker is in his fire fights and scenes of violence. He drops the viewer right in the middle of the fight with some amazing camera and sound work. You feel the weight of a shotgun blast blowing through a wall, or a tommy gun shooting through a window. These scenes are truly visceral and the high points of the film.
The only criticism I have with the movie is on a technical basis. It was shot on a HD video cam (a trademark that Mann has used in his past few releases) and while some scenes look extremely crisp and clear others don't. When the camera or characters start moving too fast there is an awkward blurring effect that just doesn't look right. And in some needs the lighting seemed off and you can definitly see the grain from the underexposed video. Granted using HD video for feature films is still a new technique, filmmakers are still figuring out the best way to use them for optimal picture. But most veiwers won't even care or notice, so really it's not that big of a deal. Though usually I am a fan of the hand held shaky cam, there were points where it is excessivly shaky.
Otherwise Public Enemies is a great gangster drama that just about anyone can enjoy. So far its the years best crime movie that is smartly written, has great acting, and is intriguing, even if his filming techniques needed some work.

4 out of 5 stars

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