If you’re gonna watch a crime-thriller movie with loads of gunfights and cop chases, the first rule is you have to bring at least 10 guys to watch together. Because cops against robbers with loud, ear-buzzing gunshot sound effect means a DUDE movie. Look, if the mathcore band The Dillinger Escape Plan (remember the single Panasonic Youth?) took their name from this guy, he must’ve been truly badass. And so I went to watch the highly anticipated crime thriller of 2009, Public Enemies, with 11 of the guys and you ask me how the movie goes? Awesome.
A nicely done flick directed by the guy who directed Collateral, Michael Mann, this film follows the life of the charismatic true-life bank robber of the 1930s John Dillinger (Johnny Depp), as he escapes prisons, rob unfortunate banks, and running away from the cops full-time. Was it that hard to catch and execute one group of robbers? No, he’s been caught, but even the movie opens with Dillinger’s prison break from the Indiana State Prison just to show his awesomeness. But wait, where’s the good folks? Oh, there’s one dedicated FBI agent named Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale) who, after his recent success of hunting down Pretty Boy Floyd, has been awarded the task to catch the slick Dillinger by the FBI director J. Edgar Hoover. And there the story goes as Dillinger did his bank jobs, fell in love with Billie Frechette (Marion Cotillard), stressed out with his tense life, escaped another prison and… oh, remember that films with stories taken from real life rarely ends happy. Because reality sucks, dude and that’s why people make movies. Hmm, come to think of it again, this movie is actually a summary of the last years of Dillinger’s life. Come on, how awesome should your life get to be movie-script worth? Watch it for yourself.
First thing, Johnny Depp really goes deep into John Dillinger’s character. Save for being a bad guy, Dillinger is genuinely charismatic, as you could see in how he treated the bank customers well while still pointing his SMG at the security guards, and a true gentleman when it comes to his love Ms. Frechette. Depp was also able to portray Dillinger’s worried, intense expression as he sneaks up on the street between police officers, but can also goes wild with his weapon when needed, killing prison guards on his way. Christian Bale delivers a fine performance as the disturbed, but continually seeking the truth Agent Purvis. He was truly dedicated to catch Dillinger without as few fatalities as possible, like shown in how he seeks more professional agents to avoid casualties in the field action against Dillinger and his cronies. And Marion Cotillard has done a good job as Billie Frechette, a normal girl that fell in love with Dillinger, and has always tried her best to support Dillinger ever since, like rejecting to cooperate with the police to help the chase.
The only aspect this film lack is the “Great Depression” theme that should be sticking close with the 1930s America setting. Without the financial collapse, Dillinger seems to be a folk hero that people love (maybe simply because he’s too cool.) and there wasn’t really any sign of the great financial depression along the movie. Actually the film is a 50:50 between gunfights and bank jobs and catch-me-if-you-cans, and the love story of Dillinger and Frechette. The film pictures how Dillinger fell in love with Frechette and treated her the true gentleman’s way, continuing to love her no matter how difficult his life was for their relationship to continue (“You ain’t going nowhere. I’m gonna die an old man in your arms. We’re too good for ’em.”) and fortunately, Frechette is also a truly loyal lover that has vowed to support Dillinger, although at first she was hesitant to go along with him. Ahh, that’s the way loving someone should be. No matter if you’re a guy or girl, go and watch this mesmerizing life and times of John Dillinger!
“I like baseball, movies, good clothes, whiskey, fast cars … and you. What else you need to know?”
— John Dillinger