July 1, 2009, - 9:39 am

Small Favors: Unlike Star Depp, Slow, Boring “Public Enemies” Doesn’t Completely Glorify Dillinger

By Debbie Schlussel
If you’re planning on seeing “Public Enemies,” in theaters today, make sure you ingest a lot of caffeine. It’s slow and boring and seemed like it went on forever.
Last week, I told you about how “Public Enemies” star Johnny Depp said, “I’m a big fan” of John Dillinger, the cop-killing bank-robber he plays in the movie’s lead role. He also said, “I actually hope people root for him, too.”
Although I originally looked forward to the movie, I was worried that “Public Enemies” would glorify Dillinger, the way Depp did in press interviews. Fortunately, that did not come to pass. It shows Johnny Depp as violent and the crowd with which he ran as equally violent and murderous.

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It does, however, show FBI agents as women-beaters and far less humane toward women than law enforcement. FBI agents are shown beating Dillinger’s girlfriend and denying bathroom privileges to her, causing her to urinate in the chair to which she’s chained. (The girlfriend, played by 9/11 Truther Marion Cotillard with a horrible attempt at an American accent–her real French accent rears its head at every turn. Cotillard took lessons to drop her French accent. She needs to sue the teacher for malpractice.) Dillinger, on the other hand, is shown as loyal to a fault when it comes to women, even the hookers.
Could have done without the indignant scene of Agent Purvis’ secretary lecturing him, “Mr. Purvis, they cannot treat a woman this way.” I thought I was hearing the ACLU lecture us on how to treat Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the rest of his Islamic terrorist buds.
Moreover, the movie shouldn’t have been called, “Public Enemies,” which fools you into thinking that the movie provides equal time to both Dillinger and FBI Agent Melvin Purvis (played by Christian Bale), the lead agent on his case. It doesn’t. Clearly, this movie is about Dillinger, with Depp as the star and Bale as a co-star, much like the Heath Ledger’s Joker was the real star of “The Dark Knight,” and Bale’s Batman was the co-star of that one. Insofar as that goes, the villain is elevated, the hero diminished.
The movie is very slow-moving and boring. There’s no excitement, little suspense. It’s rare that you see such an action-packed film–complete with lots of bank robbery and shoot ‘em up scenes–that is so unexciting and slow. But this movie was exactly that. A silly love story, with cheesy lines and dialogue doesn’t help, but it’s quite obvious that was thrown in to give something to women who go to see it. I wasn’t buying, including when Dillinger cries over his girl, although I can’t say I didn’t smile seeing America-hating Depp shed tears.
The love story gives rise to one of the most gratuitous lines in the flick, in which Depp suggests he join his girlfriend in a tub:

Me and my friend, Prince Albert, will join you.

Um, is this a major motion picture or a bad Ron Jeremy porno?
My favorite scene in the movie is when a young J. Edgar Hoover testifies before a Congressional committee, seeking more money for his interstate manhunt of Dillinger and other criminals. He’s repeatedly asked by a Congressman to reveal the number of times he has personally ever made an actual arrest. He finally answers, “None,” and repeatedly decleared, “But I am an administrator.” The Congressman tells him that makes him completely unqualified to head the FBI or any law enforcement agency.
I wanted to shout out to the theater, “Where is this Congressman when we need him?” None of the people heading our law enforcement agencies have this qualification, and they’re all completely unqualified. Janet Napolitano, Robert Mueller, etc. None of ‘em have ever made a single arrest in their lives. The same went for former Immigration and Customs Enforcement chieftess Julie L. Myers a/k/a “The ICE Princess,” and her Obama replacement John Morton.
The male stars in this movie are nice to look at, as are their suave clothes–sharp, dapper suits from the days when men’s sartorial splendor was all that. And the sets and cars from the 1930’s are also beautiful. If only the script and the storyline had such exquisite attention paid to them.
But they did not.
In fact, we barely see much of some of the other crooks with whom Dillinger hung. Pretty Boy Floyd (Channing Tatum) is killed off in the first five minutes, and we don’t know why. The movie is basically this: Dillinger in prison, Dillinger broken out of prison, Dillinger lives openly among the public who support and protect him, Dillinger falls in love, Dillinger robs banks, Dillinger in with the mob, Dillinger out with the mob, Dillinger tracked down, set up, and shot, the end.
I like a good gangster movie or crime thriller. But “Public Enemies” is only mildly entertaining, and not entertaining enough to make it worthy of your $10 bucks. I’m glad it’s not the pan-criminal revisionist propaganda I feared.
But it’s just not a great movie. Not even good. It’s just eh.
HALF A REAGAN
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8 Responses

This ain’t the Godfather trilogy, which is a sustained study of good and evil and the effect it has on generations of the Corleone family.

NormanF on July 1, 2009 at 10:32 am

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Miss Schlussel, Et Alii:
You’ve got to be kidding me!
It actually costs TEN DOLLARS to go see a movie in a theatre?
And, they also charge HOW MUCH for popcorn and soda pop?
Who would be crazy enough to go along with something that preposterous?
It makes more sense to get the DVD and watch it on television in the comfort of your own home, where you can also have a pizza delivered, or whatever.
Oh, for the good ol’ days when I was a young soldier, and it cost fifty cents to see a movie at the post theatre.
By the way, when viewing a movie in a military theatre, it always begins with the entire audience rising to their feet and standing at “Attention!”, as our National Anthem is played.
What was REALLY fun, AND economical, was going to the drive-in movie!
I sure wish we still had drive-in movies.
I think I’ve seen one or two drive-in theatres still existing in really remote locations of the Great American West, such as Indian reservations.
Thank you.
John Robert Mallernee
Armed Forces Retirement Home
Washington, D.C. 20011-8400
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writesong on July 1, 2009 at 11:41 am

No arrests makes for unqualified to head a major crime agency?
Then WTH is Obama doing in the Executive Office? That doper hasn’t managed anything in his life bigger than a fraudulent book deal and which runner gets which corner on the means streets of Chicago. At least Palin is a Governor.

BlackFlagQ55 on July 1, 2009 at 1:03 pm

Mr. Mallernee (and other interested parties),
Check out http://www.drive-ins.com/theater/open to find ones closest to you. We have a neat drive-in here in Northwest Indiana (the 49er), if you ever find yourself out this way. Hope this helps.
Cheers!

cirrus1701 on July 1, 2009 at 2:36 pm

Just got back from seeing the film with a group of friends, since some locals were used as extras. One word of advice–don’t forget your Dramamine.

cirrus1701 on July 1, 2009 at 11:20 pm

Still sounds like it glorifies/excuses Dillinger to me, especially if the portrayal of the FBI is as bad as you described. Hardly surprising,since Michael Mann’s films have gotten more and more Left.

OldSchoolW on July 2, 2009 at 1:30 pm

I’m surprise they didn’t bring up the myth about Dillinger’s “member”. I remember for years growing up stories about that which I understand just aren’t true. In Philly, there is a museum of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia called the Mutter Museum with all kinds of medical oddities (a cool place to visit if you’re ever in Philly) and we always heard that Dillinger’s “privates” were in a jar…of course that’s not true, nor is it in the Smithsonian. Boy talk about a guy getting more likeable after his death! He truly should rot.

Marc on July 3, 2009 at 9:06 am

Hi, it’s me again! Just popped over from your Watchmen page (which you seem to be ignoring :( )
I wasn’t going to post on any of your other articles, but I have picked up a slight reoccurring pattern. It seems you like to spoil films by going through AB-SO-LUTE-LY everything that is in them. That’s not a positive attribute in a reviewer.
Also, I saw the film yesterday. I’ll tell you what – instead of filling your ‘reviews’ with just your political leanings, can you actually just review the film? Not everything has to do with the Iraq war. You didn’t mention anything about the actual film. Nothing about editing, soundtrack, score, cinematography, camera. You only slipped in a tiny ‘well done’ to the art department.
Also, you’re being rather double minded about what you want in a film about Dillinger. Think about it. In one breath, you said it was good that they didn’t turn Dillinger into a hero. In another breath, you said the film was boring, and needed more whizzbangs, and explosions and thrills and what-not. To say that this is a film about a real person, real reviewers would agree that the more subtly it was played, then the better. If it was hyped out of all proportion, the characters become less real, and start to fully blend into the hero/villain stereotype. If Mann gave in, and made the film a copy of Transformers 2, only with gangsters, then the subtly would be lost, and the characters would be diminished. Then, instead of you finding this film ‘boring’, you would instead be preaching about how they didn’t treat the main characters as people. I repeat, this film is meant to be a character driven drama-thriller, not an action film.
Finally, if you found it boring, may I suggest you stick to … I don’t know, less taxing films? Like Ice Age 3? There’s plenty of action and fun and mind peril in that (but not as much peril as in Watchmen, because I’ve already noticed that a little bit of blood and boobs sends you into freefall).
So, those are my critiques. If you notice, I didn’t mention you personal beliefs, just because everyone should have their own opinion. I just want to help you improve your reviews.

Bex on July 10, 2009 at 6:40 am

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