Thursday, January 14, 2010

Movie Review - Public Enemies

Mediocre is not really a thing that any person, film, song, book or food wants to be. Mediocre, from is defined as "of only ordinary or moderate quality; neither good nor bad; barely adequate," and I don't know if I've ever seen a movie more worthy of that description. Complete and utter mediocrity is the only way I can describe this film, which is highly disappointing, as the potential for an excellent period gangster piece is clearly visible.

I'll start with the casting first; the only real notable talent here would be Johnny Depp and Christian Bale. Johnny Depp plays John Dillinger with almost...laziness; there's nothing fiery or dashing or charming about Public Enemy #1 here. Christian Bale gives his standard stoic and in my opinion, boring, performance as Melvin Purvis, the guy in charge of catching Dillinger and his gang of bank robbers; again, nothing moving or really provoking in this performance. Sadly, the rest of the cast follows suit, and not a single performance stands out. Character development is next to non-existent, and there were times when someone would be shot or be talking and I wouldn't know who their name was. I actually thought that John Dillinger had died at one point when he had somehow just vanished out the scene at hand with no explanation, only to reappear later randomly. Very poor job on the characters.

The dialogue is weak as well, consisting of grunts, shouts, and a couple of really poor Southern accents. Nothing at all to write home about, the dialogue here is just flat out weak. Every once in a while a snappy line will creep in, but other than that, nothing special at all.

My biggest gripe would be the camera work; the film is dominated by hand-held documentary-styled shots, which is extremely irritating when used poorly and too frequently. There are movies which have made excellent use of this style of camera work, but this looks downright cheap and amateur-ish in parts, and is really a low point for the movie. There are points in the movie where it quite literally looks like your viewing a home movie sent to Americas Funnies Home Videos, and I was extremely disappointed/irritated by this. However, in one gun-battle sequence, the shaky camera work is used to great effect and adds a lot of chaos to the scene; this is an example of using shaky camera work well. For the rest of the movie, it simply makes it look very sloppy. The brief attempts at more graphic violence and brutal treatment of criminals came across as distasteful, and I suspect were only inserted to appeal to fans of more "hardcore" gangster movies, but do nothing to really advance the story. I have no problem with ultra-violence, but this was just done poorly.

I suppose if I had to summarize my thoughts for this movie, it would be that Public Enemies is little more than a 2nd or 3rd rate Untouchables. The film is without direction and cannot decide if it wished to be a mystery/chase/gangster like The Road to Perdition, a vigilante police officer/gangster film like the Untouchables or a more relationship-centered movie; and by reason of trying to spread itself out too much ends up succeeding at none of the above. Public Enemies, as I stated above, is a thoroughly mediocre film, and I can't find any reason to recommend it to anyone.

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