Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Public Enemies Early Screen Review 2

Someone posted this on the IMDB forum recently (not sure if its authentic):

Just saw a raw cut of Public Enemies in Portland, OR! Definately can't afford to miss this on the big screen. Too bad I had to leave early, so I can't tell anyone how it ends (and I wouldn't the DVD).

The combat scenes were great from prison escapes to wild chases.

I was worried that the romance scenes would get flaky, but they didn't. Thanks Mr. Mann for leaving it tasteful.

Speaking of which, the director was in the audience and it seemed like no one recognized him, or the crowd did what I did--give him his privacy and let him make sure the film went smoothly.

It did...about 99.5% of it. The staff were superb. The movie started just 5 minutes (and then another 5 minutes) late. Inside joke, you had to be there.

There was a lot of subject matter to cover, and I did my homework before I saw the movie. Not a lot is explained, so the viewer must have a strong working knowledge of the period. The First World War was over a decade over, but the subsequent disillusionment led to the irresponsible roaring 20s which imploded into the Great Depression. If the viewer doesn't know more than few details (and more than what the History Channel and public education merely provide), then the logic of the characters' intentions and decision making can seem very alien.

I will watch this movie again and on the big screen, too. Because the film stives for authenticity, it sparks an interest in the period deeper than just a frivolous Google or Wikipedia search. I wondered if it would be similar to "Road to Peridition". While capturing the flavor, "Public Enemies" touches the conscience of honorable policework while battling suspicous public scrutiny and low confidence in anything government. The viewer will have to ask hard questions such as what sort of force is allowable in a criminal interrogation? When is the line of decency crossed before the public and fellow crime fighters question the methods? These scenes aren't overly explored, but neither are the subjects of lethal response and forceful interrogations ignored.

On a personal note, though, I don't side with crime nor the crimal. Johnny Depp's character, Dillinger, is superb at wooing a woman's under garments to the floor, but the consequences of his criminal actions are still mortal and permanent against the flesh. The criminal is the betrayer, not the seduced. Dillinger was a murderer from the beginning. Don't be fooled by the charms of the devil as he'll still eat your soul when he's through using you to do hell's work.

Policework is a passion, and Christian Bale's character, Melvin Purvis, though cold in appearance, is brazen in executing his duties. He's a brute when the response call for it. He's passive aggressive when sizing up a caged Dillinger. He's a gentleman to reign in the policework when agents step over the line of decency and they become criminal in action. I wish that the movie explored his logic and determination much more. Criminals are boring. The quick temptation for easy wealth and fleeting sexual satisfaction whithers. What inspires a cop or G-man to remain resolute when society doesn't give you the tools required for your basic job description? What keeps cops from becoming perverted and abusive with power? And if a line is overstepped, what is the redemption for good men who've wronged?

It's a lot to cover in just one movie and maybe too much for an uninformed audience. Because the story covers real events by real people, accuracy must suffer to keep the story bearable for one sitting. But, if you want action, Public Enemies gives it in spades. This movies was definately "raw" and not all of the scenes had the the proper sound effects from bullet strikes and and near misses as they "cracks" when whizzing by your ears. Public Enemies' combat scenes are enough to make adreneline junkies duck and cover.

All of the actors were outstanding. Of the supporting characters, I'd say that Stephen Graham, who plays "Baby Face" Nelson, is one the audiences will love to hate. He's cunning yet slimy. He lacks the presence of mind in keeping the execution of a crime low key; yet, he's quick witted enough to let down the guard of agents (Purvis included) providing for his own escape.

Okay, no more for now. You're now obliged to see the movie for yourself. I could comment about what I'd want changed, but that would be my vision and not the director's vision. Well done Michael Mann, and thank you for a very entertaining evening.

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