Thursday, June 18, 2009

'Txt Critic' Takes Aim at Public Enemies (Negative)

'Txt Critic', my frequent anonymous review donor, has apparently become drunk on his power to reach millions of Film Experience readers (shut up! Let me dream). He has abandoned his habit of one or two sentence text reviews of future releases. Now I'm getting full paragraphs by e-mail. I'll have to change his handle. Here he is on Michael Mann's summer drama Public Enemies.

Warning: He doesn't like it and doesn't mince words
Glossy, somewhat stylish, good production value and all that, but almost completely inert. I wasn't "bored," and it's not a complete and utter failure, but it's probably the least interesting movie Michael Mann's ever made. There is zero character definition. No one has an arc of any sort -- we learn NOTHING about any of the three central characters -- and the "action" isn't particularly compelling, at least not enough to compensate for the complete dearth of emotion or thematic complexity. It's the height of "this happened, and then this happened..." storytelling, without ever giving us a reason to care. There's a couple well-shot shootouts/carchases, but the movie's never EXCITING, and Johnny Depp, Marion Cotillard and Christian Bale are playing completely flat, undefined, static characters. Dillinger (Depp) robs banks. What do we learn about him over the course of the movie? He's nice and won't take civilians' money. That's all we get. Purvis (Bale) wants to catch Dillinger. Why is he so driven? We don't know. He's told right at the beginning of the movie by J. Edgar Hoover "catch Dillinger" and that's about it. He never grows "obsessive" or shows us what's lurking behind the curtain (i.e. making the character interesting) -- he just wants to catch Dillinger. There's no parallels between the two, they have no real back-and-forth, we aren't shown comparisons and contrasts.

We don't get a clue why Billie (Cotillard) and Dillinger care about each other, we just see them kiss occasionally. Depp gets one quick scene of humanity, Cotillard gets two, and boring Bale gets none -- there's a lot of hollow brooding and flat delivery here. I read some interview where Mann said he had Depp lay himself "bare emotionally" for this part or some such remark -- horseshit. This might be the laziest performance Depp's given in the last decade
Um, Ouch. And so hot on the heels of his birthday, too. Have you no heart?

Without the occasional cool music track and the clear, crisp, digital look of the film, we'd get almost no stamps of Mann. There might be some Mann apologists on this one, but I think response is going to be overwhelmingly muted, if not outright dismayed.
I asked him where he falls on the Mann-Fann spectrum and he claims he's generally a devotee. "I even like Ali and Miami Vice" he assures. Another confirmed Mann junkie, In Contention's Kris Tapley has already expressed a (very) positive reaction. Perhaps it'll be a divisive picture? I had thought we were looking at our earliest real Oscar contender but then Up happened. If Enemies does disappoint, we might not see any of the Oscar players that will pop Up's balloon (prepare yourself kids. If even WALL•E couldn't do it...) until October or November.

Public Enemies opens on Wednesday, July 1st.

25 comments:

pomme said...

there is the same critic on IMDB since March!
and the French journalist who saw the movie adored it!

Bernardo said...

Well, I guess that Depp can forget the Oscar. I wasn't excited about the trailer and with this review I closed my case on this one.lol
But let me tell you Nathaniel, is a good friend you have there. Is he going to review every film this year?lol

Dorian said...

Awwww, that's sad to read. It's a Michael Mann film, so I'm there opening night regardless, but still. I was hoping for the best for Johnny and Marion in this. And I still do.

NoNo said...

To be honest I never had this as an Oscar contender and I always wondered why people did either...I did like Ali and Miami Vice too though. This year may be a weak year unless there are sleeper hits.Is Fox Searchlight coming out with anything?

Bernardo said...

NoNo, this was an Oscar contender, because lots of people were talking about Depp and his chances to get nominated and finally win. And by the way, his Vanity fair cover is no coincidence.
On the other hand, I think that this year will be stronger than the last one and we don't need Fox S. so desperately.

adelutza said...

The fact that this particular critic didn't like the film doesn't mean that Depp can forget the Oscar. I don't think that all the reviews will be bad from what i've seen until now and I still give Depp a chance.
Really, if Jolie can get a nomination out of Changeling anything is possible...

Alison Flynn said...

And by the way, his Vanity Fair cover is no coincidence.

That's what I thought too.

We'll see what happens as the year goes on and how everyone's performance stacks up against the others. A friend of mine saw one of the early pre-screenings and thought Depp was excellent in it. The Academy loves him, so even if they don't pay attention to the movie in the other major categories he could still get noticed for lead actor.

Bernardo said...

adelutza, but Angelina was in a Clint E. movie and there's no one that the Academy loves more than him.But Depp is also very beloved by the Academy and he thought: if Kate Winslet can appear in Vanity Fair cover and win the Oscar, why not be?

Bernardo said...

*why not me?*

adelutza said...

I agree totally

Flosh said...

Well, if it doesn't end up an awards contender, isn't this just another case of front runner-itis hitting earlier in the year than usual? You have a well respected director, a good cast, and material that seems to play to all of their strengths. People imagine in their heads the movie they want/expect to see, and then the movie ends up being something else. This seems to be especially likely to be the case with a Michael Mann film. He's still making identifiably "Michael Mann" films, but people who go in expecting something along the lines of Thief, Heat, or even The Insider are bound to be disappointed. It's interesting, though, because I think he's canny enough to use the allure of potential Oscar nominations to justify to the studios his huge budgets and absolute creative control. He helps create the expectation that he's going to deliver a certain type of movie, and then goes off and does whatever the hell he wants.

Anyway, I may end up agreeing with everything txt critic says, but this review strikes me as reviewing what you want a movie to be rather than what it is. What it is may still be bad, but reading it I kept thinking, "who says that's what Mann was going for at all?"

Sorry, I'm kind of rambling on...

Anonymous said...

CHRISTIAN BALE IS NOT BORING!!!!!! YOU JUST COULDN'T WAIT TO CRITICIZE HIS PERFORMANCE COULD YOU? CHRISTIAN IS THE MOST HARD WORKING,MOST DEDICATED ACTOR IN THE BIZ,AND HE PUTS ON A SOUTHERN ACCENT THAT BLOWS MY MIND!!!! THIS MAN IS BRITISH,AND YOU'D NEVER KNOW IT,CAUSE HE'S JUST THAT DAMN GOOD!!! I LOVE HIM AND HE'S THE ONLY,THE ONLY REASON I'D SEE THIS MOVIE. KEEP UP THE BASHING,IT ONLY MAKES ME LOVE HIM MORE!!!!

Lynn said...

I think I will just wait and decide for myself. I just watched the HBO Making Of special, and this appears to be another great contribution from Mann.

Flosh said...

Wait, so Anonymous... *doesn't* like Christian Bale. Right...?

Somebody said...

I think I'll wait and decide for myself. The shootout clip I saw was pretty cool. The sound was AMAZING!!!

NATHANIEL R said...

somebody Michael Mann movies kill with sound. He's so terrific at guiding sound work.

Lynn one should always decide for oneself. We just like offering up opinions is all.

flosh i think you read that right but it's tough to know for sure.

Chris Na Taraja said...

I'm curious why someone would go into a film about criminals expecting humanity? Of course these folks are going to be nasty and brooding, under developed characters who don't really care about each other.

It's disappointing to hear this review, but I haven't completely given up hope.

Timothy Griffiths said...

I think the only Michael Mann movie I've ever enjoyed is Heat. That grainy digital crap just looks awful. And his actors always look like cardboard cutouts.

Terris said...

OT:

New clip from Julie&Julia with Meryl Streep and Amy Adams.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oeSgtWw7zEo

Devin D said...

I too will wait to decide, but am actually quite glad to have read this review from Txt Critic. I have been dying to see this film, for I am a huge fan of Mann's work. I have been so excited, in fact, that I have done nothing but build it up in my mind. I'm glad to know that it might not be brilliant. It makes it easier to enjoy, going in with a theoretical grain of salt.

18 Year Old Blogger said...

Damn. I was hoping much would have changed since the test screening I attended in February but it seems like nothing did.

I agreed with everything Txt Critic said except that I thought Cotillard and Depp were actually very good. They saved the movie for me. (BTW I can see Depp getting nommed for this.)

Ian said...

I was never going the BP route with this, but more like a "Collateral" reception with one acting nod and a few techs. I think I'd be satisfied with that if things end up being the disappointment that's suggested here. But I still can't wait to see this. "Public Enemies" is one of my most anticipated films of 2009.

DJ said...

I can't believe people are doubting one review made by a "text critic" (no offense). I'm still so eager to see it, and I think Depp + Cotillard will be fantastic. July 1 can't come soon enough.

juli said...

Speaking about Cotillard, I can't believe we haven't heard about "NINE" test screening yet. I mean, it's almost july, movie's opening in 5 months, it seems like the right time to show it to an audience if they want to spend some more time on the editing based on the reactions.

Cindy said...

I wouldn't judge this movie based on one review. Rex Reed loved Public Enemies. Here is his review:

[url]http://www.observer.com/2009/movies/little-deppll-do-ya-johnny-gets-his-gun[/url]