Posts Tagged ‘michael mann’

Bi-Polar Reviews: Public Enemies II

July 23, 2009

Sequels rarely live up to expectation, with this in mind we present part two.

Did you miss the first half? i suggest you click.

If you are like me, a fan of Michael Mann, while watching Public Enemies you will get the sense that you have seen an awful lot of this before. One man, one goal, one way etc etc. The subject of Mann’s new film is the pursuit of one John Dillinger and his subsequent pursuit of stardom. As Dillinger’s reputation increases, Mr Hoover’s impatience escalates. Cue Melvin Purviss, humourless, calculated and utterly determined to catch his man.

Bale N Depp

The players behind this film attract such great expectations. It’s Bale. It’s Depp. It’s Mann. It is these high expectations of the picture, that ultimately result in it’s undoing.

The film that has been marketed as a biopic, should be presented to the audience as such. Where Public Enemies fails is in its presentation of Dillinger. We are supposed to empathise with the main protagonist. Yet the ambivalent, cool demeanour of Dillinger presented on screen, distances the character from the viewer on an emotional level. If you didn’t know about John Dillinger before entering the cinema, you certainly won’t know a whole lot more walking out. The film feels like a footnote to an intricate story, settling on the cat and mouse game between Dillinger and Purviss.

C n M

This cat and mouse game is however, projected to us in beautiful high definition. We get the crispest hi-res images, coupled with the frightened Parkinson’s camerawork so prevalent in action sequences post-Private Ryan. The in-your-face digital photography, which worked brilliantly with the post-modern Collateral, seems slightly anachronistic in an era of fedora’s and trilby‘s.

Mann dedicates himself to making Dillinger looking more dapper than ever, and that’s the problem. It looks the business, but has no depth, nothing to say, no new shtick. It just feels like a homage to the better films that shaped the genre. The digital Bonnie and Clyde, with digital technology that clearly isn’t there yet.


The violent aesthetic of Bonnie and Clyde embellished the message it wished to convey, to an ever growing younger audience in search of anti-establishment moralities on the big screen. The movie was a powerful entity, sparking the arrival of New Hollywood cinema. With Public Enemies, you get the feeling that although it is violent in parts, it is more interested in what the violence does to people physically rather than mentally. The realistic nature of what happens when a gun shot makes impact in glorious high definition. Here violence serves as spectacle rather than narrative development.

At the centre of this narrative is the binary opposite approach of which Mann is all too familiar. Mann proposes that Purviss and Dillinger, are two sides of the same character, albeit at opposing ends of the law. In previous Mann offerings, this juxtaposition revelled in the dualism of its characters. Remember that coffee shop climax between De Niro and Pacino in Heat?


In the case of Public Enemies, we are meant to believe that somehow Dillinger and Purviss are one and the same. Yet despite all the intimate cinematography, do we ever feel that we truly know them? The problem lies in Mann’s back catalogue. The underlying struggle of good and evil that run throughout the filmmakers previous works. While previous efforts effortlessly confront this theme, Public Enemies highlights the similarities between the two protagonists – yet rarely demonstrates them.

It’s not Heat, it’s not trying to be Heat…but maybe it should’ve.


Bi-Polar Reviews: Public Enemies I

July 15, 2009

Here at the fold, we like to freshen it up a little now and then. What we do is we take one contrived journalistic form, then split the thing in two. I present to you the felicitous half of Bi Polar reviews. The come-down will follow, rest assured.

Cheer up

Sir Michael of Mann, master of the contradictory genre ‘Guy Movies for Smart People’ presented us a few weeks ago with his latest man drama Public Enemies. In the summer of robots, Mann offers a story for cinema goers.

This is not to say that Public Enemies is an intellectual social commentary. On the contrary, it is an extremely simple, straight-forward narrative that puts to lie the idea that entertainment cannot be both fun and meaningful or smart and exciting.

The Baymeister

It does so through the surprisingly successful technique of ignoring the import of its own subject matter.

It’s a period movie based on one of most famous true stories of the 20th century. But it is not weighed down by the usual gravitas. There’s no sepia filters, lowered tones or mangled music. It’s a slick thoroughly modern film, that is only old fashioned in its setting. Shot on high definition film, cut to the pace of a modern thriller, and frequently scored to the buzz of a heavy guitar riff. That it’s characters once lived, and that it’s story is technically true seems to regard mainly as a quirk of fate or bonus feature. What we’ve got here is a historical action drama framed around the career of John Dillinger. Don’t know who that is? Watch the movie. Can’t Wait? Google it.

All you need to know is that it’s a cops and robbers flick, with the great depression lending a hand as backdrop. Cue hats, guns, bullets, booze, benjamins and the kinda hot ladies one could unironically refer to as broads. If that’s not enough to grab you, heres Batman and Captain Jack Sparrow as the dueling leads. A charming rascal of a bank robber, and a stoic humourless hard case. Guess which plays which?


This is a good movie, a little bit short of a classic and it wont change your life, but it’s a rock solid piece of work with a great cast, lots of suspense and some well directed set-pieces. My only real criticism is that at times it feels a bit slight. Like its moving too fast for details to really sink in. I’m hesitant to make too much of it though, since its part of the highly modernistic style. The whole point being to portray the story without the weight of it’s own mythology. The fact remains, there is a lot of movie packed into this movie. Not only the stories of Dillinger (Depp) and Purvis (Bale), but the birth of the F.B.I, the consolidation of the mob, the hardship of the depression and the rise of the media savvy.

What a delight, that in this barren wasteland of a summer, to have an action movie where not only do you not have to turn off your brain, you don’t want to.

Amann to that Brother!