Friday, July 24, 2009

Public Enemies

I originally avoided reading Trend and Sarah's discussion of Michael Mann's "Public Enemies." I was in Central America and I didn't want to be influenced.

After seeing it, I basically agree with Sarah up and down the board. I thought it was a totally soulless movie. I didn't care about any of the characters at all. I talked to Trend about it the day before I saw it and he told me about the great shootout scene in the forest. I agree, it is very well done. The movie looks great. But do I have to sit through 2 hours of horrible dialogue, half-drawn characters, and indifferent acting to witness a good shootout scene. It's like Michael Mann thought it would be cool to have a great action scene in a forest with guys wearing 1930s outfits and then created a shell of a movie to construct around that.

Think about "Public Enemies" in comparison to "The Untouchables." I'm hardly one to use a Brian DePalma movie as a positive comparison, but in this case it's apt. "The Untouchables" was a collage of ripoffs from the gangster movies of the past. But it was fun. You cared about all the characters. DeNiro was truly evil as Capone, Connery was fantastic, the plot was great. Even Costner was decent for Christ's sake. The tension during the baby carriage on the stair scene was intense. I don't care that DePalma ripped it straight from Battleship Potemkin, it worked.

What in "Public Enemies worked as well as The Untouchables?" Nothing, except perhaps the craft in the shootout scenes. Christian Bale is completely wasted. I feel bad for Marion Cotillard. She learned English for this role and this was to be her big coming out in America. But she is also completely wasted. Depp is always good, even if I usually don't care for his movies too much. But he can't carry this terrible script.

Trend defended the movie to me by basically saying that it was a Michael Mann movie and that's what you were getting, love it or hate it. I really liked "Heat" when it first came out. But I was a much younger person then. Would I like it now? Or would I also think it is a poorly put together production that looked good and had some well-done action scenes? I really think it would probably be the latter. I always respected Michael Mann for his earlier work but "Public Enemies" has made me reconsider that in the face of overwhelming evidence of poor direction.