Public Enemies (2009)

Originally Reviewed – 2/8/2010

Anticipation is a funny thing. Sometimes, no matter how good a movie is, it never reaches the heights you’ve set for it in your head. After watching Public Enemies, I really tried to separate my high expectations from the reality of the film. Was it really as drab and average as I thought it was? Was Depp and company really sleepwalking through the lines? Was the cinematography really that bad or was the theater screen just out of focus? After sleeping on it and giving it some thought, I’ve come to this conclusion:

Nope, I’m right. Public Enemies is a remarkably average movie.

I could point to alot of what went wrong in the film but the best summation is it’s a big stinking pile of blah. The shooting scenes didn’t thrill, the love scenes had no chemistry, Johnny Depp’s snappy dialogue didn’t make anyone smile…just a big flatline for over two hours.

Speaking of Johnny Depp, he does the best he can with a decent script, but I feel as though the writers didn’t make the character interesting enough…it was as if they expected Depp to just “run with it”. Not once did I ever like or hate John Dillinger and that’s a problem with a move…uh…about John Dillinger. The rest of the cast, as I predicted, just had to be there. Marion Collard, aside from a great performance in the “interrogation scene”, was totally unbelievable as Depp’s love interest and Bale, as the FBI man sent to take Dillinger down, was barely there. At least he didn’t do the wacky Batman voice, so for that, I give him a pass.

The most shocking problem was the cinematography and lighting. While I’m doing my best to not be reactionary, this was one of the worst lit Hollywood movies I’ve ever seen. Everything had a dark haze to it, almost to the point where I wanted to complain to the theater manager for sticking us with a broken projector. The action scenes suffered from severe motion blur, almost to the point where you had no clue what was going on. Maybe the cinematographer wanted to convey a sense of “being in a 1930’s film noir film” with the lack of lighting and overused handheld camera but the result was highly distracting. This may be one of those films that’s actually better suited for DVD as the digital format reduces that effect.

The film had it’s good moments however. The aforementioned interrogation scene was intense as well as the opening scene, but the movie took a sharp downhill turn from there. Shame too, as the movie’s main character has tons of potential. Suffice to say, this is definite SKIP film, unless you are a true Depp fan and need to see everything he’s in. For everyone else, just get a copy of Road To Perdition or The Untouchables for your 30’s era gangster fix.

Score – 50%

About Bill Tucker

Jersey based and New York bred, Bill Tucker is an author of film reviews, short fiction and articles for variety of sites and subjects. He currently blogs for The Austinot (Austin lifestyle), the Entertainment Weekly Blogging Community (TV and film) and (retro gaming). He's also contributed articles to Texas Highways magazine. His favorite pastimes include craft beer snobbery, gaming and annoying his friends with random quotes from The King of Comedy. You can check out all of his literary naughty bits at View all posts by Bill Tucker

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