starring Johnny Depp, Marion Cotillard, Christian Bale, Stephen Dorf and Giovani Ribisi
screenplay by Ronan Bennett, Michael Mann and Ann Biderman
directed by Michael Mann
This is the relatively true story of the campaign by the nascent FBI - then called just the Bureau of Investigation, but already led by J. Edgar Hoover - to hunt and capture the fugitive bank robber, John Dillinger. They eventually succeeded in July 1934 by gunning down Dillinger, then aged 31, on a Chicago street as he was leaving a movie theater. It is the climax of the movie. The federal agent responsible for coordinating the manhunt was Melvin Purvis, played by Christian Bale. He made me think of other famous law officers - Treasury Agent Elliot Ness, famous for capturing Al Capone, and the Pinkerton Agency’s Charlie Siringo and Joe Lefors, involved in the hunt for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid among others.
The Depression of the 1930s saw a spate of famous and colorful bank robbers and gangsters just as what occurred in the post-Civil War west with demobilized, itinerant veterans. John Dillinger, Baby Face Nelson, Machine Gun Kelley, the Ma Barker Gang, Pretty Boy Floyd and Bonnie and Clydeaccount for the plural of the title “Public Enemies” - not to mention the Mafia clans based in Chicago and New York, already setting up legalized gambling shops in Las Vegas. The 1930s crime wave was part of the catalyst for the formation of the Federal Bureau of Investigation as a federal police force - something which the U.S.lacked until then - to fight multi-state, cross-border crime and conspiring crime syndicates.
There was a lot of shooting going on, featuring the famous Thomspon submachine gun with the barrel magazine and the forward grip - an earlier, heavier model of what became widely used by U.S.infantrymen in W. W. II. Lots of bullets flying, glass breaking. Lots of people injured, too, but not nearly commensurate with the amount of ammunition expended. It was kind of unbelievable, but exciting to watch, though.
Johnny Depp is a weird guy, but he is a great actor, and his talents are on full display here. The thing that usually attracts me to an actor is the way he moves his body and occupies space. The voice and face usually don’t rank with the importance of one’s carriage. But it’s the opposite with Depp. It’s his face that attracts me more than the way he moves. He’s got a great, expressive face.