Public Enemies
d.  Michael Mann / 2009 / USA / 143 min

Production Still from Public Enemies

When Public Enemies arrived in cinemas last year, I was really keen to see what a Mann/Depp/Bale combination would make of John Dillinger, Melvin Purvis and their respective 1930s milieu. In the end, the theatrical release passed me by.

Maybe that was a good thing, maybe the ghost of Dillinger was trying to tell me something, because this is little more than another mediocre, deeply unsatisfying period action flick. Depp is great (as usual), but Bale is unmistakably Bale/Bateman (again) and Mann’s HD aesthetics have rendered an already muddled, truncated story of mid-west Gangsterism cold and dull.

In fact, the film suffered irreparably from Mann’s decision to shoot a period film in such a cold HD palate, coupled with what seemed like a complete lack of meaningful post production grading (which, in an alternate universe, would probably have papered quite effectively over the cold, lifeless images on screen). What’s more, at certain points, particularly scenes shot in low light with streetlights in the background, the film looked downright amateurish, more Mini-DV than HD.

In the end, no amount of Depp-age can save a film from jittery plot progression and a totally mismatched visual aesthetic.

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