At times dull and nauseating; others brilliant and invigorating, Public Enemies may not live up to the potential of its two stars, Johnny Depp and Christian Bale.
There was little doubt that brilliant acting was going to be a part of this film. Depp and Bale are both known for taking on roles that are demanding. Personally, I believe Depp and Bale are two of the finest actors in Hollywood today. Despite the strong performance of Depp and the above-average performance of Bale, this movie did not contain enough of a plot and character development to showcase the potential performances of these two.
I attended this movie in anticipation of an action-backed, yet well-developed story. Public Enemies, however, found neither as it struggled to find its voice throughout.
First, the shaky, Saving Private Ryan camera type didn’t work for me. I found it difficult to follow the story at hand when the camera shook and swung about in odd ways. Honestly, I couldn’t understand why the director, Michael Mann, decided to use this type of filming. Furthermore, there were a number of extreme close-ups used throughout to focus on the faces of the characters. Again, nauseating! Even though we were sitting in the middle of the movie theater, I felt like I needed to move back further!
Second, the audio was seriously messed up! At first, I thought the theater was struggling with its audio system, but the longer the film went on, the more I realized Mann had chosen to build the audio this way. Bale was at times hard to hear; the audio cut in and out.
Where did this movie work for me? Well, first of all. Depp was brilliant as John Dillinger, the 1930s bank robber. Second, the plot contained enough of a story to keep you at least entertained for a time, but did not develop the characters of Bale, Depp, or Baby Face Nelson, to name a few. The only “plots” I could find was the love story between Deep and his girl, Billie, and Bale attempting to capture Depp. However, there also wasn’t enough of a “chase” feel to the movie.
Finally, the last part that worked for me was the scenery and images used throughout. The director paid exceptional detail to making it as authentically set in the 1930s as possible, and I thought he pulled it off through a number of incredible scenes.
All in all, I would recommend seeing this movie. The story of Dillinger and the acting of Depp are enough to see it again. However, save your $8.75 (the cost of a MATINEE MOVIE in SO CAL!!!) and add it to Netflix. You’ll be glad you did.