Public Enemies

Public Enemies ★★★

I may be a Coppola apologist, but I've always been touch and go on Michael Mann. His debut Thief and Manhunter a few years later showed a lot of promise with stylish visuals, inventive use of music and a knack for impactful yet nonexploitative violence, but much of his generally acclaimed work like Last of the Mohicans and Heat does very little for me despite seemingly checking all the boxes. A strikingly effective period depiction and brisk sense of momentum keeps this one from being a total failure, and Johnny Depp is surprisingly well-cast as Dillinger, but like the later Mann films I mentioned there is something missing from the meat of the picture that is hard to put my finger on. I think it has to do with how the urgent clip keeps me from being truly invested in the action by barely sketching out its characters. Most of the great mob movies I've seen spend enough time fleshing out the background that one can't help but connect with even the most revolting historical figures. This one just kind of drops you in the middle of the admittedly searing action and doesn't let up until the equally underdeveloped finale, which doesn't feel quite like the right approach for telling this particular story. I'm sure some would disagree though, and on the plus side these qualities all keep it from feeling too derivative of the Godfather or Goodfellas formula.