Reviewed by: Sheri McMurray
|Featuring:||Johnny Depp (John Dillinger), Christian Bale (Melvin Purvis), Billy Crudup (J. Edgar Hoover), Channing Tatum (Pretty Boy Floyd), Leelee Sobieski, Emilie de Ravin, Marion Cotillard, Giovanni Ribisi, Stephen Dorff, Stephen Graham, Carey Mulligan, See all »|
|Producer:||Universal Pictures, Relativity Media, See all »|
“Public Enemies” is an expertly crafted American drama based on fact, is handled with great attention to detail, is directed by Michael Mann who is a gifted director, and has some great performances by the actors. That said to it’s credit, I must say you’ll probably want to wait and rent this one on DVD, so that you can get up and pop some corn and answer your emails in between it’s long and brooding shots.
This film should have premiered later in the year. It is the perfect fair for the “thought-provoking” end of year films, not the ruff-and-tumble action we want during the summer blockbuster months. As one reviewer in the Washington Post put it: “Public Enemies” has no soul. Similarly, Time Magazine claims that the film’s emphasis on docudrama allows for “precious little dramatic juice,” and these comments say it all.
“Public Enemies” is a singularly American drama. It is intelligent and beautifully produced, paying close attention to detail. Every set and costume is meticulously presented, and with solid performances by some of our days most proficient actors who manage to give us little spurts of gifted delivery, which were not enough to keep me on the edge of my seat. Filmed close to the faces of the actors, there aren’t many long shots allowing it some scope. The action scenes, although full of shoot outs and bank robberies, just seemed to fall flat.
The film centers around the final year of John Dillinger’s (Johnny Depp) sensational criminal career between 1933 and 1934. The government puts the pressure on the first director of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover (Billy Crudup) to round up and prosecute the leagues of bank robbers and mob bosses birthed by the great depression. These men were seen in the eye of the public more as celebrities than for the ruthless criminals and murderers they really were. Hoover, after not being able to garner the funding he needs to spread out his net of G-Men to get the job done, tightens up his squad and hires on talented and respected FBI agent Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale) and his band of Texas Rangers to settle the score on crime.
Purvis is known for his use of modern technologies and then considered stealth processes to capture and sometimes kill his criminal prey. Having already brought down the likes of Pretty Boy Floyd (Channing Tatum), he leads the man-hunt to bring down the likes of Baby Face Nelson (Stephen Graham) and eventually John Dillinger.
Most of the success at avoiding capture is that the Dillinger gang is always on the move, covering a wide area that stretches from the midwest states of Indiana and Illinois to Arizona. The one thing that Dillinger cannot leave behind, however, and ultimately weakens his toughness and emotional guard, is his love for girlfriend Billie Frechette (Marion Cotillard). She is the one link to Dillinger, and Purvis knows this all too well. After Billie is caught and arrested, Dillinger never leaves the Chicago area, looking for a way to rescue her. Because of this one blunder, it is only a matter of time before the final showdown in front of the Biograph theater in Chicago on the fateful night of July 22, 1934.
“Public Enemies,” because of it’s obvious subject matter, is full of bloodshed, shooting, and graphic images of murder, death and destruction. The rating of R for gangster violence and strong language is more than appropriate. There are women called whores, and they are just that, who are seen in flimsy attire, but never nude.
I could count on ten fingers all the swear words, however, and the one love scene in the film, although steamy, really doesn’t show much ‘skin,’ but relies mostly on passionate kissing and the ‘love language’ that hints at what is actually going on between the lovers.
The gun battles are graphic and extremely realistic, making you feel as if you are right in the rooms or standing beside the men who are shooting and being shot at. The death scenes are graphic, and the use of Hollywood special effects prosthetics makes the blood oozing from bodies appear extremely real. Of course, this film is not for children or even adults who cannot take such stark realistic depictions.
Needless to say, this is not a Christian film, and never considers God or a life-changing experience with Him as an answer to a change from the degraded life of crime the criminals lead, or even the hope for the men who hunt and kill them. It is actually very depressing, because there is no happy ending, as its ending has already been told in the real world and historic story of John Dillinger and Melvin Purvis.
We know full well as Christians that a life of crime can never culminate in any kind of true happiness. That all the money, possessions and celebrity this world can offer will never reap the rewards of true joy. Only Jesus can give a man that. Even men who have lived a life of crime, if turned towards and accepting the love of The Cross, can say they are truly happy. That is because they are forgiven and fully pardoned from the One who is in control. No court can do this for a man’s soul, only Jesus can bestow true and lasting forgiveness. In that total forgiveness, from God our Maker, is true and complete happiness and joy.
As I sat and watched the ending credits roll to “Public Enemies,” I felt a real sadness. Not a sadness for the film, but for the very real persons portrayed therein, for all those who are hurting in this world while living a life of crime, looking for the easy way to fulfillment. The one thing that kept repeating in my mind and heart were these sobering words. That one who uses violence can expect only a violent response. That if one lives by the sword, he most definitely will die by the sword.
How very true the words of Jesus in Matthew 26:52 ring down through man’s existence, and how we should head them still today: “Return your sword to it’s place, for all those who take the sword will perish by the sword.”
Violence: Extreme / Profanity: Moderate / Sex/Nudity: Moderate
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.