Public Enemies (2009)

Public Enemies - Marion Cotillard

Synopsis (Thanks Cathay!):

In the action-thriller Public Enemies, acclaimed filmmaker Michael Mann directs Johnny Depp, Christian Bale and Academy Award® winner Marion Cotillard in the story of legendary Depression-era outlaw John Dillinger (Depp)—the charismatic bank robber whose lightning raids made him the number one target of J. Edgar Hoover’s fledgling FBI and its top agent, Melvin Purvis (Bale), and a folk hero to much of the downtrodden public.

No one could stop Dillinger and his gang. No jail could hold him. His charm and audacious jailbreaks endeared him to almost everyone—from his girlfriend Billie Frechette (Cotillard) to an American public who had no sympathy for the banks that had plunged the country into the Depression. But while the adventures of Dillinger’s gang—later including the sociopathic Baby Face Nelson (Stephen Graham) and Alvin Karpis (Giovanni Ribisi)—thrilled many, Hoover (Billy Crudup) hit on the idea of exploiting the outlaw’s capture as a way to elevate his Bureau of Investigation into the national police force that became the FBI.

He made Dillinger America’s first Public Enemy Number One and sent in Purvis, the dashing “Clark Gable of the FBI.’’ However, Dillinger and his gang outwitted and outgunned Purvis’ men in wild chases and shootouts. Only after importing a crew of Western ex-lawmen (newly baptized as agents) and orchestrating epic betrayals—from the infamous “Lady in Red’’ to the Chicago crime boss Frank Nitti—were Purvis, the FBI and their new crew of gunfighters able to close in on Dillinger.


It is the other movie that is most talked about other than Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen for the 2nd quarter of 2009 and you don’t have to wonder why other than the three names listed below in the order of who makes the deepest impact on me:

Marion Cotillard

Johnny Depp

Only two people out of the tons of actors in the movie. Why not Christian Bale? Because his performance pale in comparison to Marion Cotillard who is also holding a supporting role. I should applaud Marion for playing the character of Billie Frechette so well despite barely speaking a word of English during her press conferences. She is after all, a French actress. To add on to the uphill battle of playing John Dillinger’s love interest, she had to adapt to the thick Western-American accent which is pretty hard to grasp and understand. Seriously, they call a lady “doll” man.

One of the scenes which I was most looking forward to was the interrogation scene where she was interrogated so badly that she was bleeding and when she asked to be excused to head to the ladies, she couldn’t get up from the torture and ended up peeing in the interrogation seat. Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale) had to carry her to the ladies much to the dismay of the only other female in the FBI. She executed the scene so well, it was virtually painful just watching her get slapped countless times up-close and yet she was able to trick Purvis’s subordinates into a dead end.

It really is no wonder that she is an Academy Award® winner.

As for Johnny Depp, his portrayal of John Dillinger reeked of A-Z notoriety but you can’t help but be on his side for playing against the law and outsmarting FBI so many times by walking out of jail so many times while in custody! He played the cool as a cucumber character so well that you are just mesmerized by his antics.

This Depression-era biopic humanizes John Dillinger’s character without going overboard. However, there should have been much more action during the first 45 minutes of the movie, it was dry and draggy. There were times I sat in the theatres wondering what the heck am I doing watching a dry period biopic; it’s two hours long. Either that or cut those draggy scenes away.

Reel-life John Dillinger & Billie Frechette:

John Dillinger & Billie Frechette

Real-life Billie Frechette & John Dillinger:

Billie Frechette & John Dillinger

All in all, Public Enemies deserves:
3.75 stars out of 5

Reason being, I did not study History thus I don’t know the Depression-era well enough to begin with, thus I went in with the hopes that the movie will give light to the era but to no avail. It fell awfully short. However, it’s the portrayal of Bille Frechette and John Dillinger (with the burning chemistry) that saved this biopic from being a catastrophic disaster. Also, it was all filmed on video-camera and that added on to the element of “realness” to the movie. There are times I feel as though I am video-recording the scenes right before my very eyes.


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