Friday, July 03, 2009

Public Enemies

BLAM!BLAM!BLAM!


RAT-A-TAT-TAT

Christian Bale actually shoots my (guilty pleasure) Channing Tatum down early on in Public Enemies but I've totally forgiven him because I'm so pleased that he didn't shout at the camera with crazy eyes this time. I was getting so tired of that. My second favorite scene in the movie is totally his lone scene with Johnny Depp through the bars of a jail cell, both men subtly trying to come out on top of the verbal smackdown. Bale is totally intense in the scene without once doing his "LOOK HOW INTENSE I AM!" thing. Well played Bale, well played.

My full review of Public Enemies is up over at Towleroad. In addition to holding forth on Public Enemies (which I heartily recommend to some and not to others) my weekly column offers up new gay movie news and wraps up with the criminal cool of Bette Davis. So, go read it.

But back to PE...

I'm totally fascinated by the diverse opinions I've been hearing and reading. Rather improbably for a straightforward gangster story, it seems to be something of a rorschach test, people reacting to it in completely personal ways. How else to explain nearly exact opposite reactions such as 'this is a character study but the action doesn't work' vs. 'there is zero character development but the action scenes are well shot'.

It's for this very dichotomous reason that I don't subscribe to either of the Oscar race notions floating around out there: the pro 'The Oscar race has begun' or the con 'Dead on arrival. Look at the middling reviews!' It seems obvious to me that it's the type of picture that will need time to settle. I think that's a good thing. Too many movies are instantaneously celebrated or dismissed on their very first day in theaters (and sometimes before that). Christ, let them breathe a little.

But if you've seen it, do add your initial impression to the confusing dogpile. After all, gut reactions come before full digestion.
*

47 comments:

Anonymous said...

Nathaniel, yoi made me sad and want to slap you for once (pouts). You failed to mention anything about Marion Cotillard in the movie. She's one of my favorite actresses and she only got a "part of the cast" mention while other critics adored her x_x. It's a good thing I love your blog or I would have actually stalked you just to get one smack at you :) Love your blog still :D keep up the great work :D - Clarence

NATHANIEL R said...

i find it difficult to mention every single thing about a movie in a review ;) i'm trying to keep them short for that format.

anyway, i mostly liked her in the movie even if she was kind of miscast...

i thought her line (in the trailer) reading of "yeah i want to take that ride with you" was quite moving.

Anonymous said...

(Puts away nathaniel-detector) woo :D Lol she had an interview with Craig Ferguson where she said the word Focusing as if it was "fuckusing" rofl it was so cute. Damn she's so charming x_x-Clarence

DJ said...

Like I said before, I loved it. It wasn't a strict biopic - it wasn't going for the facts or a complete history of Dillinger. Rather, at least this is what I think, it was trying to look at specific events within the last years of Dillinger's life - what this man was *like* (his personality), and that's why they succeeded. Depp gave the perfect performance - I discovered how charming, romantic, and passionate a man Dillinger was. The love story is obviously the best part - it was extremely palpable and tender on screen. Cotillard and Depp had fantastic chemistry.

Anyway, 10/10 for me.. my #1 of the year.

Joe Shetina said...

I'm excited. Christian Bale annoys me most of the time so we'll see how this goes.

Wayne B. said...

Well, now I have to see it for sure! Looking forward to it.

Nate said...

I still don't know what to think about it, I liked it, but didn't love it. Give me more time.

Everyone was fine, although I didn't find Marion as amazing as so many others.

NATHANIEL R said...

Nate... i thought she was good but i think the thing with really warm or endearing performers (which she is here... those big watery eyes and that smile) is that it's easy to be fall in love but what are such performers actually doing performance wise.

i'm not trying to knock her because i did like the performance. i'm just not sure she made sense of a very difficult character (she turns on a dime throughout and you're never clear exactly why she's doing that...)

anyway, i thought she was good but i'm not sure anybody was exceptional per se. But i definitely think it's an interesting movie and probably one that, as stated, needs to settle.

who knows maybe next week i'll have to move it up or down a grade.

I did find it a bit curious that it didn't seem to be either anachronistic (time period and tone wise) OR period... it was so inbetween to me. which i found kind of cool.

and i LOVED the escape scene in the woods. loved it.

NATHANIEL R said...

and by difficult character i didn't mean that the character is difficult but that the psychology of the character is different because the screenplay really gives you so very little about why she does the things she does (apart from the blanket reason: love)

Walter L. Hollmann said...

LOVE LOVE LOVE this movie.

As for Cotillard's Billie, so little is known about the woman herself, and...

SPOILERS HEREIN

...she was in jail way before the escape in the woods happened. In fact, throughout the events of the film Public Enemies, the real Billie Frechette was in jail, having been taken into custody at the same time Dillinger was. The idea that they would let her free when they already had Public Enemy No. 1 in custody is a little absurd.

But hey, screw historical inaccuracy. The movie's still FAWESOME.

Ms. Berkowitz said...

it was kind of mediocre. I'd give it a c, 5/10, 50%. First of all, why is he a hero? At one point he says something like "I don't want your money, I want the banks money" isn't the banks money peoples money? It also seemed like he robbed the same bank three times. Why did he go to a public movie theater even though he's public enemy #1? They had that huge announcement about looking to the left then right of you because the criminals might be around you. People had to notice him. He was the only one not turning his head while he had a devious look on his face. Did people ignore him since he's popular? He always has the coolest and smoothest things to say. In every gangster movie they always have the perfect things to say to make themselves seem cool. Its getting annoying. When be was talking to the press every little dumb joke he made the press and audience laughed, every single time they laughed. Extremely dumb. The prisons suck. Everyone knows him for the notorious crimes he does, he was basically one if the most wanted men in America yet when they send him to prison there's no double security on him. He gets out no problem. Stealing candy from a baby seemed more adventurous. How come pretty boy floyd died so quickly he wasn't even in the movie 5 minutes. I don't care to much though since the actor who plays him sucks and is worthless to the acting world. Nelson was just annoying with his voice and in a shoot out he said something like "hit em high and hit em low" dumb thing to say after facing two people. How could he walk in the police station, ask them a question, walk out like nothing. Using no disguise, completely casual he goes unnoticed. The romance of the movie is dull. How come everytime they have a intimate kiss this kind if orchestra music comes on. Its unneccesary, it doesn't make the moment more romantic. Billie had a horrible life after meeting him, nothing good happened to her except sex. Not to mention Marion cotillard's accent got in the way, sometimes I couldnt understand what she was saying. Nothing in this movie made me care about her or him. The action was also nothing special, wasn't worth the loudness in the movie theaters. The camera was also a nuisance. For a biopic I didn't learn much about him. He's cool, a murderer, he steals, was in love, and was popular. Nothing special. Something that made me mad was at one point a guy was walking down the sidewalk in a crowd with a gun in the air and no one noticed. Not one scream or "he's got a gun" just people laughing oblivious to what next to them. The thing john Dillinger whispers in the guys ear is corny and I think it was suppose to be sweet or something. A really dumb moment. The beginning was okay, the middle was okay, the ending sucked big time. Sorry for the novel!!

NATHANIEL R said...

ms berkovitz that's ok. Get those feelings out. see how the movie sits with you a few days from now.

i agree with your point about the time walks out in the street with his gun. I was like "huh, what now?" but i totally bought the movie theater scene. it was a bit of impish fun in a movie that needed some variety.

Devin D said...

I, too, loved this film. However, the arguments against its shortage of character development are solid. Yet the film isn't sold by the action. It is an art house gangster film and will definitely be on my movie shelf the day it hits DVD. I will probably even see it again in theatres.

NATHANIEL R said...

devin i might see it again too. i'm still a little mixed on it but certain scenes are totally interesting to me.

I actually ran into a critic friend on his way to the movie a second time and he seemed really glad that i liked it -- some people are giving it a beating.

Devin D said...

That was meant to say "arguments against if for its shortage..."

And I think that time will see this film called a classic.

Kurtis O said...

I was bored with it and I didn't like the digital aesthetic. I felt it was minor Mann (and minor Depp, for that matter).

As for Cotillard, she is such a charmer, but her struggle with English is distracting. I think she's a lot like Penolope Cruz: earth-shaking in her native tongue, comparatively disappointing when eeking out the inglese

josh said...

the more i think about it the more i love it. right now i think it is brilliant. but i am biased since this movie is totally up my alley, and i am a Mann fann. most director would go the easy route and make it really hollywoodish. Mann always makes a movie his own. even if one of his movies are bad, i cant say they lack ambition. he's one of the few directors today that i think take risks. i cant wait to see public enemies again though. im glad you liked it.

brianmaru said...

I am with the "great action" and "no character" thoughts on this film. It's well made but a bit of a letdown that it doesn't quite come together into something special like it clearly could be.

My full review was here.

http://www.examiner.com/x-1550-Seattle-Movie-Examiner~y2009m7d1-Reviews--Public-Enemies--Ice-Age-Dawn-of-the-Dinosaurs

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Glendon said...

Did anyone else's showing have terrible sound design? There were points where the sound would drop out and then boom, and drop again during the same line.

About the actual movie, I have no idea how I feel about it. The fact that I give it a 5/10 just goes to show I don't know if I like it or hate it. It felt very cold and without risk or character development for the first half. Then the Little Bohemia Lodge scene occurs and for the next half hour the movie finally has some stakes. But then at some point, oddly, all the life is sucked out again, and then it ends.

I didn't mind the lack of development for Bale, but there needed to be SOMETHING in that arena for Depp. If there was, but I didn't notice it, Depp deserves an award for achievement in underacting.

moviefreak said...

Nathaniel,
PE was good not great. Depp and Bale ? Good but not great. Marion Cotillard steals every scene she is is. And I thought Stephen Graham ( Shang in GONY ) did great with the little he had as Baby Face Nelson.
I was impressed with the costumes, art direction and cinematography, but it's clearly a movie that needs time to breath ( and compete against other movies coming out later )
It doesn't have to be Oscar worthy to be a good and entertaining flick, and that is what I thought it was.

Galvin Green said...

Yes I do agree with this. Thanks.

NATHANIEL R said...

glendon my showing had terrible sound problems but i'm guessing it was the theater (lincoln square) and not the film since Michael Mann usually uses sound so well.

it was frustrating and exactly as you describe

brianmaru said...

Just to keep up the odd theme...my screening had really awkward sound too. Odd trend?

Janice said...

Nathaniel, have you ever seen the 1973 biopic "Dillinger" with Warren Oates and Michelle Philips (of Mamas and Papas fame) as Dillinger and Billie Freshette? It's been years since I've seen it (on late night TV) so I can't really give a good review of it, but I recall the grittiness and violence making an impact on my much-younger self.

It'd be interesting to compare the two and see what each has to say about their respective periods (ie early 1970's and late ''00's).

NATHANIEL R said...

ooh. indeed that might be interesting.

if i had all the time in the world a whole marathon of Dillinger stuff would be worthwhile for perusal since he's in a few movies.

kitty said...

i loved the movie as i loved "zodiac" or "the good shepherd"(and i really loved these movies). It's like these movies but with great action scenes and the acts make the characters in this movie.
Purvis is like Matt Damon character in De Niro movie . someone thought him boring but he's subtly intense!(it was the great talk between my friends)
One of my friends even said he was a bastard and Dillinger is a gentleman!
It was very funny because none was right on the movie or Purvis but every one loved Depp/Cotillard love story and Depp/Bale scene(very subtle)

NATHANIEL R said...

kitty yes it does seem to be breaking down that way. nobody agreeing on Bale's Purvis. Most liking the Depp/Cotillard combo.

Alfred Soto said...

I didn't care for it -- Mann's dullest film.

If anyone's interested, my take here.

pomme said...

it's funny as none didn't see the same movie ! whatever happens,i 'll see it the next week!

moviefreak said...

It just doesn't quite get to that height of greatness. But I was entertained. Exceptions, exceptions.
This was one of my top 5 most anticipated of the year. And it fell a tad short, but not by much. Depp and Bale have been better in other roles and I think the general consensus was they were both going to be Oscar worthy performnaces.

Stella said...

I'm also feeling incredibly mixed about it. I think it's because it was just so awesome in certain scenes and so awesome in the next, like two completely different directors made the film.

For example, Bale would have some stale and monotonous line delivery in one scene and then be mesmerizing and as you said, effortlessly commanding in the next. The bank robberies sucked like hell but the Little Bohemia lodge shootout was nearly mindblowing. There would be scenes of true emotional involvement and characterization (a la Billie interrogation) and the characters would be like cardboard cutouts in the next. Such a polarization of great and awesome. it's the most curious film.

Stella said...

wow I'm really sleep deprived. I meant "so awesome in a few scenes and then so flat in others".

I'm going to rewatch this film. Either way, I enjoyed it, but I'm disappointed that it didn't live up to its potential as the next great gangster classic.

Stella said...

Sorry for commenting so many times, but yeah Marion Cotillard was awesome in this film. She stumbled a few times with the accent, but she was the emotional center of a film that struggled to make the audience care about the characters. Her interrogation scene was just great, just beautifully done. And her ending shot? Just a little heartbreaking.

moviefreak said...

Stella... no worries on your grammer, it's like I'm sleep deprived fron all the fireworks out my window but at the same time, I can't sleep.
I typed exceptions, when I meant expectations. Ha !

NATHANIEL R said...

stella yes the more i sit with it that's it for me too. I saw the flaws my friend is adamantly a thumbs down about but then there'd be moments where i was just sucked in.

*SPOILERS*
and the lodge sequence is so vivid... the older Gman (or whatever they're called --what's the actor's name anyone know? the one who visits Marion at the end. i didn't catch his character name) that runs behind Dillinger when his back is again the tree and then promptly vanishes. This freaked me the hell out in that moviemovie way that's so grab your seat enjoyable.
[/END SPOILERS]

so yes a film that's both films people are hating and loving.

Henry said...

Public Enemies could have been better. I mean, gangster flick, Johnny Depp, Christian Bale, Michael Mann directing and co-writing. What can really go wrong? I think it was just the case of all the parts being there, but the execution was way off. It's technically brilliant, beautifully shot, and the subject matter is inherently compelling (even if it has been done a bunch of times before). Honestly, it's borderline boring. It took a couple of scenes of gunfire blazin' to wake me up in some passages. It has more to do with the whole thing around John Dillinger. He's a fascinating character in history and Johnny Depp is a great actor, but for some unknown reason, he's a blank slate in this film. Depp is posing in the film and the plot demands that Dillinger operates in a quick and efficient manner. While it's great for the character to go and move through a bank robbery so ruthlessly and efficiently, it doesn't allow for the movie audience to be invested in the atmosphere and payoff of the robberies. You try to get into the moment and then it's over in a second. Bale works as Agent Melvin Purvis who is just as smart and efficient as Dillinger. Where Mann went wrong is the casting of Marion Cotillard as Billie Frechette. She tries hard to hide her natural French accent and it deters from her doing other things to help the movie along. It also doesn't help that she's a majorly underwritten character, one that disappears for long stretches of time and isn't involved with a lot of the major action sequences. But the movie seems stuck in neutral. It takes so long to get going and when it does, the momentum inexplicably stops. It was frustrating.

What really bothers me is that the movie doesn't know what it wants to be. It wants to be an action thriller but doesn't really have a strong plot framework to be completely that. It wants to be a personal love story drama and the love story between Dillinger and Frechette is underbaked. To Dillinger, Frechette is not really a true love, but another possession to augment his playboy style. Dillinger is almost bipolar, ridiculously competent with bank robberies (he has lookouts who gun down policemen and takes hostages as human shields) but somehow stupidly attaching himself to things like movies, betting on horses, and Frechette. The movie has a wildly episodic feel to it. I will admit that the gunfights are well done, as is Mann's usual forté. The gunfight in the woods and at the lodge is exciting and well-shot. The final capture of Dillinger has a lot of tension. There's even a sequence during Dillinger's second escape from jail that is rife with tension. But, as I said before, it really could have been better.

I'll say this: It's much better than Transformers.

ThaDropDownBear said...

I think the movie all together just lacked intensity you know? It was pretty good but none of the aspects were really good enough to be great. Also I think Bale was grossly underused.

moviefreak said...

Henry- you make good points. I still think Cotillard's appearence are scene stealer's though.
Depp and Bale almost come across as bored. There's no emotion a lot of times. Blank looking faces. Maybe I am thinking more about Cotillard's performance because it seems everytime she was on screen it sort of breathed life into the film. I was expecting with such a fine male cast there would be more charisma.

Henry said...

Mm, I was more bothered by Cotillard's performance to be honest. I mean, it's good that they try to explain why she has no clear American accent, but I was taken out of the atmosphere of the film whenever she came onscreen and spoke. Bale is workmanlike in his performance and Depp has charisma, but somehow both just don't show it on their faces. And I would argue that Cotillard's character became fairly useless during the middle section of the film. To Dillinger, she's just a prize and it bothers me that there aren't juicier roles for women in films like this other than to be the token object of desire. I wish Mann coule tell me or show me why Dillinger likes her so much. It's clear why she likes him. Like I said in the previous comment, the whole romance feels underwritten, like maybe there was some character stuff left on the cutting room floor.

adelutza said...

First off, we should be grateful that amid all the transformers and terminators of the summer we got an intelligent movie for intelligent adults. That's a victory in itself. I applaud any movie that opens before September that is pointed to an over 25 years old audience .
Second off, after a few days of letting it "marinate" I think I liked it. It lingers somehow with me and not a lot of movies I've seen lately did that.
Absolutely, it has it's problems but I liked the overall feeling even if at the beginning I was kind of put off by the camerawork and the bad sound ( it can't be a coincidence that is was bad everywhere). I'm a big Johnny Depp fan but I don't think this is "his" movie no more than I think it's Marion Cotillard movie. (I usually don't mind accents but in this case , when everybody tried so hard to sound Midwestern she sounded very weird ). This is an occasion when a movie is better then the individual performances or the sum of its parts. I could go on and criticize every scene and every performance. But the overall results is, amazingly, good.
Which is exactly the opposite feeling I had with Cheri. All the scenes were good, the acting was really good but the sum of it all...not very.
And that reminds me Nathaniel that you promised a more detailed version of the Cheri press conference. I'm still waiting for that.

moviefreak said...

Maybe my expectations were too high. I liked it. I didn't love it.
Christian Bale should do a comedy. His brooding all of the time is getting old. Change it up a bit. Throw us a curve ball. All this seriousness is wearing thin on me. He has got that one serious look.

Catherine said...

I didn't like it.

Firstly, I had sound issues as well. A lot of the time I had trouble understanding what people were saying (not just Marion Cotillard, although she was the most difficult to understand!) because the sound kept dipping in and out. I'm in Ireland, so it seems like that particular problem is fairly widespread.

My main objection to it was it seemed too bitty. There would be a bit of a love scene, a bit of a scuffle, a bit of a bank robbery, a bit of the FBI discussing Dillinger...none of the scenes seemed lengthy enough to actually communicate anything to the audience and they felt thrown together in a way that wasn't totally cohesive.It's called Public Enemies, plural, so I went in hoping for some good scene work with Dillinger's gang, but nada. The film barely differentiated between the separate gang members and I was thinking "Wait, which one is Baby Face? Who's that guy? Whaa?". The hi-def look also bugged me in a period film, but I'll accept that's just a personal preference.

Overall I was bored and I kept thinking "C'mon, go see Manhattan Melodrama soon, will ya?".

pomme said...

i saw the movie (in french) sunday with a father and we loved it.It's not perfect but sorry ,it's so good to see a movie without robot,bimbo,FX or superheroes .
i understand the person who compared the movie with Fincher movie or De Niro and i'll even say more Eastwood movies.
My father often doesn't go to see a movie but he loved the movie ( our last movie together was Gran Turino)and the fact the gangsters and the policemen were all bad guys,it's very "roman noir"("dark book"?!)
and you was right :it's a Rorschach movie! him and me didn't see the same story or characters and that is interesting!

Anonymous said...

I loved the movie, but agree that it was flawed in many of the ways mentioned. I think Johnny Depp is a huge talent, but wish I could have really felt the Dillinger character through him. Also felt he was really detached from Cotillard's character (where was the chemistry in the lovemaking)? He seemed more into himself than her. he claimed to want to protect her, but it didn't come across, in my opinion.

Danny said...

My full review is at my blog, but to sum up my review, I would give this film 3 stars out of 4. The performances are really the things that hold it together and the action scenes are brilliantly shot. I just had a problem with the script, it seemed like it didn't know what to focus on, and if it wanted to cover so many subjects, the movie should've been longer.

Danny said...

My full review is at my blog, but to sum up my review, I would give this film 3 stars out of 4. The performances are really the things that hold it together and the action scenes are brilliantly shot. I just had a problem with the script, it seemed like it didn't know what to focus on, and if it wanted to cover so many subjects, the movie should've been longer.