So I went to see Public Enemies last night. I had high hopes; after all, I’ve yet to see a Johnny Depp film I didn’t enjoy (in my universe, the two Pirates sequels don’t exist). Oh, Hollywood, how you continue to let me down. Was it not enough that you buried the Indiana Jones franchise last year? You didn’t twist the knife with all the “hilarious” family sequences in Transformers 2?
Kudos to them for the casting of Depp as bank robber John Dillinger. I don’t know much about the man in real life, but Depp portrayed him as a charming Robin Hood type, robbing banks but never their customers, ever mindful of his adoring public. Unlike his somewhat violent and thuggish associates, Dillinger would prefer to use the fear engendered by his various machine guns and pistols, as opposed to the bullets they fire.
But exactly what was Michael Mann thinking in casting Christian “I haven’t opened my mouth properly to speak since 1999” Bale as Melvin Purvis? I used to simply adore Bale back in his American Psycho days, but since then, he’s lost some of his sheen. The fact he seems to play the same character over and over doesn’t help, and in this case, it feels like he’s reprising his 3:10 to Yuma role, in which he was out-classed and out-acted by Russell Crowe (there’s a sentence I never thought I’d find myself typing). In that film, he played the reluctant lawman escorting Crowe to prison, while in this film, he plays a reluctant agent in the fledgling FBI attempting to get Dillinger into prison. In both cases, his co-stars outshone him in every way, portraying their criminal characters as lovable rogues. Bale, on the other hand, portrays his with all the charisma of a mouldy Stilton.
My other two problems were the clunky narrative (please, leave the ‘skipping about with little exposition to explain what’s going on’ to Quentin Tarantino) and the constant shaky cam. It does not make a film feel more realistic – if I were running in real life, my brain would automatically compensate for the fact that the world around me would appear to be jumping about. In a film, this doesn’t happen, so instead it simply looks like you dropped a film camera into the monkey enclosure at London Zoo and asked them to tape something.
And it’s so long. My right knee actually seized solid with the herculean effort of sitting still for all that time. I mightn’t have minded if I’d enjoyed it, but all I could think was “Nice to see Depp taking on a proper role, instead of his ‘Woohoo, look at me, I’m CRAZY!’ casting of late, but pity about everyone else”…