Public Enemies

Public Enemies ★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

A noble experiment, but it doesn't hold up on rewatch. There are moments where Mann's use of digital video is sublime—particularly one gunfight in the woods in the dead of night, shot apparently with a minimum of artificial lighting. The shockingly bright gunfire, and the steam and smoke rising off of the guns, and the visible exhalations from his actors shot in silhouette are truly artful. But more often it's distracting, especially on rewatch. The quality of movement on the screen is just so fully at odds with our perception of the time period that it's hard to ignore the modernity of the technology.

A bigger problem is how how sketchily rendered the Dillinger role is. Depp is fine, but Mann's insistence on just capturing his characters _in media res_, without backstories or psychological precedents, is a challenge here. In past Mann works, this has been incredibly successful ("Miami Vice" being perhaps his most impressive example) but here it throws into stark relief the few character building details that are included. Like the moment when, on his way out of a bank he's just robbed, Dillinger pauses to assure an innocent bystander that he's "after the bank's money, not yours." That may well be historically accurate, but here it comes off as pointed grandstanding.

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