Public Enemies

Creative Loafing had a headline stating Public Enemies was the “Best Movie of the Year (so far).”  I thought that was an endorsement of the film, but it turns out that it was a condemnation of the rest of the years’ films to date.

It’s not that Public Enemies is a bad film, it’s not.  It’s just not a very good one either.  At 2 hours and 20 minutes long I would expect to get some sort of story.  Instead, almost all of the characters come off as paper-thin, and it becomes very obvious that the film is based around a handful of gunfights, prison escapes, and a whole lot of filler.

We don’t see John Dillinger’s rise to infamy.  The film starts with him as Public Enemy #1 and never bothers to explain how he became something of a folk hero.  There are a couple of lines in the film referring to his popularity (“people love you”) but how he got there is never addressed.  To the audience I imagine his popularity is meant to stem from the fact that the popular Johnny Depp plays the role.

The film does that a lot, glossing over the actual story of John Dillinger to fill the spaces where there’s no action, hinting at a story without actually telling it.  For example, Marion Cottillard is completely wasted in this film as Dillinger’s girlfriend.  Dillinger sees her in a crowded room, tells her she’s his girl, and she acquiesces.  That’s pretty much the entire relationship in a nutshell.  I’m convinced that the only reason she was included in the film is because the Hollywood Formula For a Summer Movie dictates that there must be a love interest involved.

There’s nothing wrong with making an action movie that’s thin on plot.  It’s just that when you stretch it out to almost 2-1/2 hours long without fleshing out the characters or story, you end up with an action movie that’s thin on action.  By the end of the movie when Dillinger meets his fate, all I could think was “finally.”

Like I said, it’s not a bad movie, but I wouldn’t say it’s worth the price of admission either.

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