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Public Enemies: Depp Shines Through a Shower of Bullets

The reason to see Public Enemies is the same as the reason to see any Johnny Depp movie: Johnny Depp. The story is engaging enough — there's plenty of sputtering machine gun shoot-outs and exciting escape plans and dashes of romance — but the actual enjoyment of watching this movie comes from Johnny Depp in a role he's naturally gifted at playing: the dark, mysterious rebel.

Depp plays John Dillinger, a bank robber who has gained a certain celebrity status with the public. His charm and calm cleverness have made him and his gang quite rich and have kept him from being permanently captured. Soon, however, J. Edgar Hoover (Billy Crudup) focuses his attention on Dillinger, his "Public Enemy No. 1." Hoping to use Dillinger's capture as a way to elevate his Bureau of Investigation into the national police force, Hoover puts his dashing agent Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale) on the case. The majority of the movie is a back-and-forth dance with Purvis pursuing Dillinger and Dillinger eluding Purvis's grasp. Consistently thwarted by the sly criminal, Purvis's desperation to catch Dillinger leads to some extreme measures. Violence, gunfire, and bloodshed ensue as Purvis and his team start to close in on their enemy. For more of my thoughts on the movie,


It's mind-boggling to see how relatively easy it is for Dillinger and his gang to pull off these crimes. In our era of constant surveillance and advanced technology, these guys wouldn't get three feet without someone snapping a picture or video with a camera phone. The movie is set during a more trusting time period, and one that is — for better or worse — far behind us. At the same time, we may have more in common with that era than we think. As we experience a recession, we watch a story in which the protagonist robs banks in the midst of the Great Depression — should we be rooting for this guy? Depp makes us want to, that's for sure, but what with all the bloodshed, it's hard to always think that what Dillinger's doing is cool. Public Enemies actually makes us think about this stuff, and making us think is more than most of the big Summer movies can boast.


The movie also features good performances by an impressive cast, with Marion Cotillard standing out as Dillinger's lady love, Billie Frechette. She is perfectly paired with Depp, her bright eyes and lively charisma nicely complementing Depp's dark and intense steadiness. The two make a sexy duo and their scenes together are some of my favorite of the whole movie. They're both soulful actors, interested more in substance than style. Some scenes that don't include either of these actors are all shiny cars, slicked-back hair, and terrible accents, making me yearn for Depp or Cotillard to be back on screen.

The actual filmmaking, however, made me queasy. I know Michael Mann is an intense director but I hate the herky-jerky camerawork and the random close-ups on things in this movie. The other distracting element is the actors' makeup, their faces clay-like, their lips bright pink. It's hard to become immersed in this world when the streaks of blush constantly remind us that this is all make-believe. But aside from these things, the film overall is an intriguing thrill-ride with a little bit of heart and the sharp, intelligent Johnny Depp leading us through it.

Photos courtesy of Universal Studios

Join The Conversation
delicatewine delicatewine 7 years
this movie was good, but if it wasnt johnney depp playing the role i would of walked out, you can't keep your eyes off him, not just because he's hot as shit haha but just the way he plays his characters
oohsexypenguin oohsexypenguin 7 years
My husband and I plan on seeing this tonight, and I'm looking forward to it. I just can't resist a Johnny Depp movie, he's my favorite actor.
fleurfairy fleurfairy 7 years
Johnny can do no wrong. Neither can Christian Bale. It may not be an Oscar winner, but I'll be seeing it in the theater. It's the perfect antidote to a 100+ degree summer day.
ilanac13 ilanac13 7 years
i saw this movie last night and i have to say that although it wasn't the best movie that i've seen recently - JD's performance was GREAT. he's really good at playing that kind of character - bad,cocky and still a guy that you want to like. marion on the other hand really needed to work with her linguist a bit more since it was def going in and out of french.
PeachyKeen19 PeachyKeen19 7 years
I don't mind Buzz review but I really liked slate's a lot better. The writer isn't being a snob, just giving a good assesments so I suggest that if you're interested to take a look. I agree about Johnny and Marion being great together (I feel like it comes through in the trailer) and I'll most likely see this film.
lizlee89 lizlee89 7 years
eveday, while that is true, he's best at the rebel - look at 21 Jump Street, Chocolate, Once Upon A Time In Mexico, Pirates of the Carribean, etc. He's at his best when he is smug and snarky; and he's one of the only actors today who pulls that off without being annoying. what really continues to amaze me, though, is Depp's universality. not only does he appeal to numerous demographics; he can play virtually anything. you look at his resume and he's mastered not only the genres - drama, comedy, action, thriller/suspense/horror, even romance - but he has also mastered every type of acting - method, character, everyman, hero, villian. It is a true testament to the man I consider the greatest living actor. This man is the kind that I always think Shakespeare and Marlowe (actors themselves) would dream of. Ok, now that it's clear to everybody how much I love this man; as far as the movie goes; I am worried that what Buzz has said will be exactly true, Although I think Michael Mann has made some impressive, very well written movies using that signature camera style (Heat, Collateral); he has also made some really awful movies (Miami Vice, The Kingdom) that use that camera style in a really annoying way. He also tends to overdo special effects and your typical action movie, tough guy stuff like car chases and blowing things up. While I don't mind those things (I love action movies), they become really cliche and cheesy when not accompanied by good editing and strong writing. I've yet to see this, but I still want to check it out for Depp and Bale alone (I also love Marion). As far as Dillinger's being a good guy, while I think he was still a thief and a murderer and don't think anyone should be charmed by Depp's pretty face (or even his hippie logic - see what he said about Dillinger); I think part of watching movies is suspending your disbelief and rooting for someone whom in the real world you would not. Yes, the actual man was criminal; but when you're watching the movie Depp is not playing John Dillinger the man. He is playing a character named John Dillinger who robs banks. That is where he gets his appeal and his humanity (sorry, I know this was a little long but I just had a lot of thoughts about this)...
miss-elle-cherie miss-elle-cherie 7 years
I want to see this !
KMattes KMattes 7 years
This movie was so boring. I walked out, it just kept going on and on. Ugh.
wolfjinx25 wolfjinx25 7 years
Oh I can't wait to see this!
eveday eveday 7 years
But Buzz, he's naturally gifted at playing anything, not only the dark, mysterious rebel.
eveday eveday 7 years
The reason to see Public Enemies is the same as the reason to see any Johnny Depp movie: Johnny Depp. Yup. And I don't need any other reason.
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