"I have been a fan of Michael Mann since I saw his first film, "Thief", way back in 1981. I have to admit his later efforts such as "Collateral" and "Miami Vice" have left me wanting a return to the days of "Heat" when he reached the height of his powers. So is "Public Enemies" a return to these heights? I would have to say Not Quite.
This is not to say that PE is not a good film, it is. It is just lacking the sense of grandeur and style of his earlier works.
The portrayal of Dillinger by Depp is very good. The sense of his recklessness and pure "adrenaline junky" attitude comes across well. He revels in his reputation, living a life of anti-stardom almost akin to the screen gangsters of the films of the era he so obviously enjoys.
Bale on the other hand is so bland as to almost disappear. This lad needs to seriously lighten up a little, as his screen performances are becoming so dull as to be lifeless.
The films action set pieces are very well done but then one does expect this of a director with Manns reputation. His legendary attention to detail all to evident from the clothes worn to the weapons used. This has become a Mann trademark.
However the story takes some major liberties with history. "Pretty Boy Floyd" did die at the hands of a unit lead by Purvis but this was several months after Dillinger. Homer van Meter (Dorff) died in an alleyway in St Paul Minnesota after a brief gunfight with Police, also after Dillinger. Lester "Baby face nelson" Gillis also died some months after Dillinger in a shootout with FBI agents. To show them dieing in the FBI shootout at the Little Bohemia Lodge was really playing fast and loose with the facts. In fact the only people apprehended there by Purvis and his men were the gangs girlfriends. It was a monumental failure for Purvis whis resulted in the deaths of three innocent men in the car that was leaving and was fired upon. A moment shown in the film but never made quite clear as to what had happened.
So how should PE be judged? As a totally accurate biopic of Dillinger it fails on some counts but scores well on others such as the portrayal of the escape from the Crown Point jail in Indiana using a wooden "gun" and the media circus surrounding him at the time.
But his foray into the Dillinger Unit office at the Police Hq is pure fiction and I thought a scene that could easily have been left out of the film.
Did I enjoy it? ( because it reads like I didn't doesn't it).
Yes I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was filmed on digital and this has been much maligned by critics and although I thought it gave the film a "you are there" look to it I would prefer the classic look that his look that his cinematographer Dante Spinotti showed in such mann films as "Manhunter" and "The Last of the Mohicans". As said the action pieces are excellent, the pacing is good and the characters come across well. It does show the naive ineptitude of the fledgling FBI very accurately (Yes they really were that bad!).
So all in all a bit of a mixture with the result coming out as being very good.
If you know anything about Dillinger you may be left a little disappointed. If you go to it wanting a rattling good crime epic showing how insane the the early '30s crime wave was, then you'll enjoy it.
So take the Mrs and she can lust after Depp while you enjoy the firefights."