Published on July 1st, 2009 | by Greg0
Public Enemies- Boring AND Historically Inaccurate
Typically, if you're making a period piece or semi-biopic major motion picture and aiming for both critical and commercial success, you face a choice. You end up balancing between potentially putting audiences through a history lesson, or skewing the past to make things tie together or move faster.
Public Enemies does both, satisfying neither audiences looking for an action gangster movie nor those aiming for accuracy, and winds up being little more than mildly interesting. With recognizable actors in all sorts of roles, you end up being pulled out of the movie. And the film was obviously digitally shot, sometimes a bit shaky, and that ends up being distracting as well despite the excellent cinematography and typically high-quality production values.
The film glosses over details, changes chronologies, and reduces one of the most feared and respected gangsters to a mere villain you kind of root for, since he's Johnny Depp. Neither the score nor sound were particularly compelling, and the couple of decent action sequences couldn't rescue a sort of Heat-lite with too many faces and often-limp dialogue. Even Christian Bale, who is brilliant at playing characters with an edge and a bit of darkness, is handed a role as a seemingly straight-laced, uncomplex cop and thus seems a bit miscast. There are definitely reasons to see the movie- Marion Cotillard is excellent, if given barely enough to work with.
But generally, it's easy enough to leave with a shrug. A sad thing given some of Mann's priors, and the cinematic topic at hand. You'd think it'd be hard to both make gangsters boring and mess up history, but Public Enemies manages. Too bad too. Dillinger, Pretty Boy Floyd, Baby Face, J. Edgar Hoover, prison escapes, fake guns… sounds like a good movie to me.