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Movie Review: Public Enemies

Alternate Title: American Gangster

Story: This is not a perfect movie and at times has more style than substance but it has many elements to delight one and all. It has beautiful people, fine acting, incredible photography, fine period details, a love story, good shoot 'em ups and a great soundtrack. It was expertly visualized by director Michael Mann and written by Mr. Mann, Ronan Bennett and Ann Biderman. It is based on the book by Bryan Burrough called Public Enemies: America's Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933-34.

John Dillinger died at the tender age of 31 on July 22, 1934. He had spent most of his adult life in prison but in the short time he robbed banks across the land he became an American folk hero. The Depression was on, people were mad at the banks (sound familiar?) and Dillinger's charm and savvy captured the public's fancy.

This movie focus' on that short period of time with gusto. We get to see Dillinger rob banks, escape from prison, run from the Feds, fall in love and get killed. The secondary story is about the newly formed FBI run by the deranged J. Edgar Hoover and his top agent, Melvin Purvis. The Keystone cops aspect to the formative FBI is amusing as was watching how organized crime enlarged before laws were passed to stop Interstate crimes.

The downside to the film was that there were too many characters coming and going that were not properly introduced in the story telling. It was not clear who some of the characters were since they all wore fedoras, suits and carried guns. This film could also have been called 'Men With Hats.' That said - it was still a good ride, visually appealing and you will not have been robbed with either your time or money.

Watch the trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dWof6CovHxI

Watch some old footage of the real Dillnger here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JqkWr6P01eE

Acting: Johnny Depp as John Dillinger is perfect. He gobbles up the screen with his best performance in years. Christian Bale as Melvin Purvis is robotic but mesmerizing. Oscar winner for La Vie en Rose, Marion Cotillard plays Billie Frechette and is a terrific match for Depp. Billy Crudup as J. Edgar Hoover was sensational. He made me think how good Hoover would have looked in that pink tu tu. I would not be surprised if he got a Supporting nod for this role.

Trivia: Director Michael Mann often portrays criminals as likeable and sympathetic (Thief and Heat). He often portrays the leader of a group of criminals as a hard-edged loner. He was Will Smith's personal choice to direct Ali. Spike Lee campaigned vigorously against Mann, saying that only a black director could do Ali's story justice. He directed four different performers in Oscar-nominated performances: Russell Crowe, Will Smith, Jon Voight and Jamie Foxx.

Predilection: I like Johnny Depp and Michael Mann.

Critters: None

Food: Steak and potatoes

Sex Spectrum: Many legends surround John Dillinger. One urban legend says that Dillinger's penis had somehow found its way into the Smithsonian Institution. These legends are the result of the photograph of his corpse - the bulge caused by his arm, stiff from rigor mortis, covered with a sheet. Some who saw grainy newsprint copies of the photo mistakenly believed it to be his unnaturally large erect penis. Check out the photo and story here: http://www.snopes.com/risque/penile/dillinger.asp

Soundtrack: Great soundtrack - appropriate to the time period.

Opening Titles: Other than white type on a black background setting the time and place all credits are at the end.

Visual Art: It is filmed beautifully by director of photography, Dante Spinotti - it is a visual delight to watch.

Theater Audience: About 30 other people.

Quirky Meter: 0

Squirm Scale: 0

Drift Factor: I looked at my watch a few times.

Predictability Level: High

Tissue Usage: 0

Oscar Worthy: I am sure it will get a few nods.

Big Screen or Rental: Big screen for sure. Dillinger has been portrayed on the big screen many times including: Lawrence Tierney played the title role in the first film dramatization of Dillinger's career; Dillinger (1945), which inaccurately attributed several cold-blooded murders to Dillinger. In 1959's "The FBI Story" starring James Stewart, Jean Willes plays Anna Sage and Scott Peters plays Dillinger. Director Marco Ferreri's 1969 film Dillinger Is Dead includes documentary footage of real John Dillinger as well as newspaper clips. 1973's Dillinger, by John Milius with Warren Oates in the title role, presented the gang in a much more sympathetic light, in keeping with the anti-hero theme popular in films after Bonnie and Clyde. Lewis Teague directed the 1979 film The Lady in Red, starring Pamela Sue Martin as the eponymous lady in the red dress. However, in this film, it is Dillinger's girlfriend Polly in red, not the Romanian informant Anna Sage. Sage tricks Polly into wearing red so that FBI agents can identify Dillinger (Robert Conrad) as he emerges from the cinema. A TV movie Dillinger was released in 1991, starring Mark Harmon.

Length: 15 minutes over the Lobo two hour rule.