Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Public Enemies (2009)





“Success is dangerous. One begins to copy oneself, and to copy oneself is more dangerous than to copy others. It leads to sterility.”
—Pablo Picasso
Michael Mann's Public Enemies dramatizes the criminal escapades of an individualistic, veteran and expert criminal. This man is a devout loner who lives by his own ethical code, which is heavily informed by the associations and few friendships he has forged throughout his life. Most especially, the man's mindset has been significantly molded by a sage older criminal whose borderline philosophical musings and extrapolations of particular quandaries have left an indelible imprint on the entire being of Mann's protagonist. This protagonist gradually loses his insularly-ensured bearings when he finally falls for a lovely, irresistibly alluring woman. The woman's new presence in the criminal's life threatens to compromise his previously secured moorings. Meanwhile, a dogged man of the law relentlessly tracks the criminal down, either wittingly or inadvertently using the woman as the bait the criminal cannot resist pursuing. Extravagant firefights punctuate the action, with one particularly momentous exchange representing the picture's climax from which everything else hurtles throughout the film's remaining running time.
Unfortunately, Mann has told this same basic story before, and he has done so with a more confident bravado. If the above outline serves as the substratum in which Mann may judiciously service his own thematic obsessions, it is regrettable that Public Enemies comes across as something approximating an artist's “leftovers.” There is a nearly humorous irony to this predicament, as well: in finally creating a sprawling crime drama based on historical figures, and most infamously John Dillinger (Johnny Depp), Mann is repeating himself with an historical drama after plying his trade to sheer fiction. (Mann has essayed historical narratives before—with The Last of the Mohicans, The Insider and Ali—but those films did not follow the trademark Mann crime template of such films as Thief, Heat and to far lesser extents Collateral and Miami Vice.) In essence, Mann has already told the story of Dillinger—and in Heat he definitively channeled the 1930s bank-robber's tenacity and wiliness when creating Robert De Niro's adroit criminal. So now, when Public Enemies unspools, moments associated with Heat or even Mann's other cops-and-robbers tales, repeat themselves: Depp's Dillinger coolly but almost lethally assaults a foolish criminal whose actions led to completely unnecessary tragedy in a scene which cannot not recall De Niro's punishment for a roguish thug his crew ill-advisedly picked up; Dillinger is thwarted by the self-serving mob which had provided safe harbor for his gang; Dillinger must choose whether or not to simply walk away from the love of his life, Billie Frechette (Marion Cotillard); a climactic denouement is afforded the weightiness of Greek tragedy and is apparently even given the same musical theme from Mann's 1995 opus (always stay until the lights come up and watch the credits carefully).
So much of Public Enemies is finely tuned and tautly-mounted. Repeatedly, Mann stages elaborate set-pieces of suspense, movement and action—and then repeats the repetition. For the filmmaker behind the bank-robbery apogee of Heat or the LA Koreatown nightclub sequence in Collateral, several of these scenes must resemble an accomplished bodybuilder exercising with light free weights as warm-ups. When Mann finally closes the picture's Act II with a sprawling, protracted nighttime gun battle—easily the film's most rivetingly commoving stretch—it appears the veteran has begun the more challenging portion of his routine. Finally, Mann's choices such as shooting in digital with a grittier, hand-held camera perspective, seem to pay off. Earlier, these decisions seemed to conjure a dusty, seemingly incongruous 1930s home movie. Camera bumps and shakes contrast sharply with the more traditional crystallized, tinctorial palette Mann had previously employed. Public Enemies strives to be the scabrous Saving Private Ryan alternative to the picturesque gracefulness of its 1930s crime saga antecedents of the modern era such as Bonnie and Clyde, Miller's Crossing and Road to Perdition. By opting for an admittedly more potently sui generis texture in which to tell their story, Mann and his cinematographer Dante Spinotti craft an immediately controversial film. Whether or not the decisions aid Mann and Spinotti in forging a piece both rooted in past excursions into the 1930s crime-laden tales of Americana such as the aforementioned pictures or other efforts to tell the Dillinger story in the 1940s Dillinger or the John Milius action picture of the same title and simultaneously reaching for a kind of abstractly-defined orphism of being remains questionable.
In other areas, Mann's trademark excesses, weaknesses and undeniable dexterity all mix with one another to create a film of frustrating but engaging dynamism. Mann, who collaborated on the screenplay with Ronan Bennett and Ann Biderman—based on Bryan Burrough's recent book, “Public Enemies”—is occasionally guilty of mistaking mood for meaning, and shortchanges the characters for whom he perspicuously cares in favor of following the exhilarating swings in momentum between cops and robbers in one gun battle after another. Depp's Dillinger is the picture's most thoroughly detailed and excavated character, yet even he remains mysteriously divorced from much of the film's subtextual focuses. He tells one man to keep his money—like Clyde in the 1967 Arthur Penn picture, Dillinger and his crew are only after the bank's money—but when he tells another criminal that the public matters, it remains unresolved whether Dillinger thinks so because it is simply advantageous or because he has some burning vestiges of principles. At a time in which banks are found liable and in some instances once again blamed for a financial crisis, Mann's film delivers the typical staging of the big banks against the little people with Dillinger and his cohorts representing an approximation of a necessary evil. Dillinger's cohorts, however, almost all remain astoundingly remote—the one exception being Jason Clarke's beautifully rendered John 'Red' Hamilton. On the legal side of things, Christian Bale's Melvin Purvis and Billy Crudup's J. Edgar Hoover are afforded just enough screentime to be presented as full, flesh-and-blood characters, but Bale in particular is—yet again—hamstrung by an underwritten role with which he must work.

Somewhat surprisingly, it is Cotillard who stands out. Her dialogue is uneven at times, but she and Depp create some dazzling chemistry with one another. Mann recycles pieces of previous romances in his films, fitting Dillinger-Frechette into his paradigm. This does not inflict any damage to the couple's verisimilitude; since Mann has fundamentally told Dillinger's story before in Thief and Heat, to obviously varying degrees, this similar rendering of love fits, and would appear to be largely historically correct. It may indeed be an instance in which Mann—as with the rest of the film—has simply found the real-life, historical story that aligns with his passionate interests and obsessions.

There is a limitation to that, and naturally history is massaged by Hollywood once more to bend to Mann's vision. Purvis is presented as a consummate professional so as to stand as a palatable Mann “cop protagonist” to pursue the criminal mastermind. Babyface Nelson is gunned down before history informs he was. Yet Hollywood deserves immense credit in certain venues of personal cognizance, something Mann outright acknowledges in the film's denouement. Depp and Mann finally seem to reach the height to which they were so long before striving earlier in the film. As Dillinger sits in a hot theatre watching W.S. Van Dyke's Manhattan Melodrama (George Cukor worked on the film in an uncredited capacity as well), Depp's slight facial expressions tell the tale. It is a beautiful, superbly realized cinematic moment: cinema commenting on itself, and its virtues and powers. Depp—who here delivers the best part of his performance, and probably the single best stretch of acting in years—quietly, amusedly, watches the picture, and Mann's timing with cutting to Manhattan Melodrama's figures is expert. Dillinger sees himself in Clark Gable's strangely heroic gangster and naturally he, like so many male lovers of film, sees in Myrna Loy's lovely countenance, enshrouded by her gleaming hair, the woman he loves. He also peers into his future and it is a coup de grace of visual storytelling. Public Enemies may not go anywhere Mann has not gone to before, but for that moment, it certainly caught its reflection and tipped its hat to the audience in a manner which speaks volumes about the place of cinema in every moviegoer's life.

115 comments:

Anonymous said...

WOW! Great, great review. I think I totally agree with you. It has a lot of good parts but it's got serious problems too.

Alexander Coleman said...

Thank you, Anonymous. You certainly read that quickly!

Larry said...

Great, balanced review, Alexander. I agree with you on almost every single point. The ending is a knockout and I loved that shootout you mention but there are alot of weak parts.

Kevin J. Olson said...

several of these scenes must resemble an accomplished bodybuilder exercising with light free weights as warm-ups.

I really like Mann's style and find him no more repetitive than the other American poet of the cinema I often liken him to: Terrence Malick. So, even though I disagree with you here on this point, I have to say that is a damn funny line. Bravo. I totally understand that reaction, too. Something with Mann, though, just hits me right every single time.

I'm glad you mentioned the camera bumps and other digital aspects of the film, because I really think that the digital added a lot to the intimacy of the film. It's the typical Mann paradox: filming in the most intimate of forms (digital), yet keeping the audience at arms length in regards to character development/motive. I personally fins his take on character development refreshing, and liken him to Jean-Pierre Melville, another filmmaker who was interested in these existential crime dramas.

Anywho, great stuff Alexander. Always a pleasure to read your thoughts.

Alexander Coleman said...

Thank you very much, Larry.

Kevin: thank you for the fantastic thoughts. And the kind words as always.

You raise a highly interesting point with the Melville comparison. In part, I wholly agree: Mann is unquestionably at his very strongest when he forgoes the demands of dialogue and "nuance" as it is frequently understood today, and simply makes a silent film in the middle of something much larger.

The concluding passage of The Last of the Mohicans, for instance, is masterful in its purity of motion and deceptively simple, visual poetry. Whatever one thinks of that picture, that last stretch makes the whole film worthwhile (and there are certainly good portions elsewhere; I've always enjoyed the scene in which the British and French contingents meet one another--Mann does well at conveying the "pomp and circumstance" of those marches).

Likewise, Heat is ripe with many fine, wordless moments of visual genius.

Sometimes, however, Mann goes too far--and it seems to occur when he knows his screenplay is leaving the rest of the enterprise vulnerable. Ali is an interesting picture, but that scene with Will Smith running becomes monotonous, and it reveals the periodically present problematic side to the Mann equation. I probably should view Miami Vice again, but that entire film felt like Ali's scene with Smith running, or other detached sequences in Mann's filmography. There is no spinal cord, so he works with what he can.

I do find the Melville comparison fascinating, however, and it makes me wish that Mann would completely borrow Melville's techniques. I'd love to see a Michael Mann film modeled on Le Samourai (and I have no question that Tom Cruise's Vincent in Collateral is a not-so-distant relative to that picture's lonely protagonist), not merely in characterization (which should be continued through with pure, visual language as Mann would probably excel at) but in all of its grandeur.

The point about the digitial filmmaking remains salient, and controversial. It's gutsy and brave, and there are parts of the film where it works brilliantly... At this point, it is the more obviously "artistic" decision insofar as it immediately distinguishes itself from films of this type to come before, but it also had a distracting component to it at times.

Thanks again for those fine thoughts, Kevin. Soon: The Hurt Locker. Have you seen it? (I promise I'll catch up with what you've written recently very soon.)

Kevin J. Olson said...

Alexander:

First I haven't seen The Hurt Locker yet. It hasn't made it to Salem. I haven't checked Portlant, though...it may be playing there. But I am definitely excited about seeing that one.

You make some great points about the the beautifully poetic coda in The Last of the Mohicans. I like your comments on the movement of that scene. It's a beautifully staged moment as the actors move about like dancers.

I'm also always fascinated with Mann's obsession with music being the driving force behind his narratives. Almost all of Mann's "big moments" are accompanies by pulsing soundtracks that seem to be moving the action. I personally love that element to his film.

I hope you re-visit Miami Vice soon. I think it's one his masterpieces, and in my review of the film I made a lot of allusions to what I've talked about here in regards to Mann reminding me of Melville.

Sometimes, however, Mann goes too far--and it seems to occur when he knows his screenplay is leaving the rest of the enterprise vulnerable. Ali is an interesting picture, but that scene with Will Smith running becomes monotonous, and it reveals the periodically present problematic side to the Mann equation. I probably should view Miami Vice again, but that entire film felt like Ali's scene with Smith running, or other detached sequences in Mann's filmography. There is no spinal cord, so he works with what he can.

Fair enough. And this is the major argument that people who aren't Mann acolytes such as myself make against Mann's films. They do indeed linger...for long periods of time. But I don't find myself being that bored by them. They remond me of some of Mallick's best moments. I guess I would just swap monotonous with contemplative. But I understand how some don't see it as contemplative, they just see it as Mann being an obsessive perfectionist of a filmmaker who doesn't have the discernment to cut any scenes.

The "no spinal cord" line is an interesting take on it, and again, I can't say that I don't understand where you're coming from.

There are some filmmakers who I don't mind staying with for long, drawn out scenes that just seem to be saying the same thing as the scenes that came before them. These contemplative films put me in a kind-of reverie where I relish these moments. I often think of the films of the late Sydney Pollack, a man who made some pretty long films that were nothing more than standard stuff. His Sabrina is nothing special, but I liked the actors and the scenes just had a sweetness about them that I couldn't look away from (Julia Ormand had something to do with that), and even though the film overstayed its welcome (it's well over two hours) I found myself not really concerned with the wandering running time. Same goes for The Firm, as aesthetically classic as a film gets. Meaning there's nothing really visual there holding your attention (as opposed to the longer Mann or Malick films) for the 150+ minute run time, but somehow that film catches my attention every time I see it on TV and I think that's because there's something about the lethargic pacing of that film that puts me in some kind of state of hypnosis.

Anyway...I don't know if any of that made sense. But there ya go...

And if you make it over to the blog I look forward to your comments. Thanks Alexander.

Sam Juliano said...

I continue to feel disdain with the video filmmaking style used here, and I found that we never got to know who Dillinger was in the film. Conjoined was an uncharacteristically flavorless and remote performance from Johnny Depp, who gave a one-note turn, while Christian Bale was likewise a monotonous introvert. Ironically, Marion Cotillard against all odds, gave the film’s best performance,(you later say you feel the same way) as she was a power keg of emotions, waiting to explode, like the film did in so many machine-gun set pieces that were rendered mute by their endlessness. I’ll admit that the clothes, cars, music, Depression era movie theatres and atmospheric replication was impeccable, and that Mann does exhibit that singlar style. But with me it is largely style over substance. You have pointed to a number of serious issues that exist in this film, and this is quite true here:

"In essence, Mann has already told the story of Dillinger—and in Heat he definitively channeled the 1930s bank-robber's tenacity and wiliness when creating Robert De Niro's adroit criminal. So now, when Public Enemies unspools, moments associated with Heat or even Mann's other cops-and-robbers tales, repeat themselves....."

As far as the controversial filmmaking technique here, which I don't favor for period pieces, your observation here is superb:

"In essence, Mann has already told the story of Dillinger—and in Heat he definitively channeled the 1930s bank-robber's tenacity and wiliness when creating Robert De Niro's adroit criminal. So now, when Public Enemies unspools, moments associated with Heat or even Mann's other cops-and-robbers tales, repeat themselves...."

Your subsequent observations are magnificently posed, even if I'm not so enthusiastic about Mann in general. But you really have come back here with a vengeance!!! Fantastic review.

Alexander Coleman said...

Kevin:

Wonderful point about Mann's films finding a propulsive soundtrack as the buttressing for many of the highlights of his narratives. Mann seems quite comfortable with this particularly wordless, music-driven, nearly silent film-era existential purity of action, and poetry in motion. Despite having significant problems with Public Enemies, the conclusion nevertheless sucked me right in, and was definitely one of the more colorful, Mannian flourishes of the film at large.

The comparison to Malick is intriguing as well. It doesn't quite gel for me, simply because Malick's pictures tend to miraculously work on the terrifyingly diverse planes of this purist, existential cinematic portraitures and crafting indelible psychodramas which deeply analyze his characters' complex psyches. I'll admit that Mann at his very best (and, yes, I tend to consider Heat his best, most consummately "Mann" film, as overloaded with cliches as it is, simply because Mann was able to couple these disparate issues by force of will through an appropriately epic narrative). Nonetheless, I truly do see your point, and am rather fascinated by it.

Sam:

Thank you for the very kind words. It sounds as though we almost wholly agree about Mann's latest. (It is certainly true that the production design and costuming are top-tier.) Cotillard leaves the lasting impression, and I must admit that Depp's performance for approximately the first 7/8ths of the picture left me mildly disappointed (I always questioned how Mann and his techniques would mesh with one another, and it didn't seem to come off for so much of the film), though he did seem to save the best for last in my eyes. Christian Bale was once again reduced to little more than placeholder.

Your disdain for the "video style of filmmaking" here is well-noted, Sam. It is unquestionably a divisive choice--though I tend to be simply indifferent to much of it. It seemed to work well for that one extended nighttime gun battle, but otherwise, it was probably only a distraction and little more.

Thank you once again for the terrifically energetic and comprehensive comment, Sam. I'm attempting to get back into the CCC groove once more, and goodness knows I have a great deal on my mind which should find its way into cyberspace in the near future.

Thank you both!

Ari said...

I would also recommend revisiting "Miami Vice", something I'm very glad I did a few weeks ago. Saw the film in a whole new light, and I dare say it's one of Mann's three best films. This time in 2006 I said it was his worst. I have no problem admitting I was terribly wrong and that I completely missed the point of the movie. I also agree about the Melville comparison and about the way Mann repeats himself. In fact I'd say Mann repeats himself in exactly the same way that Melville did. I don't hold it against either of them, in fact I think it's what makes their work so appealing.

Melville's crime movies basically explore the same idea with only slight variations of plot and character in order to make everything seem fresh and compelling each time out. This is what Mann has done with "Heat", "Miami Vice" and "Public Enemies". It's hard for me to say one is better than the other. I lean towards "Heat" just a bit because of the Pacino/De Niro factor - they gives the film a certain weight and urgency. But I have to say, I think Mann pushed his interests to the extreme with "Miami Vice" and "Public Enemies", and I believe his use of digital video finally brings his particular sensibility into complete focus (yeah, literally, but you know what I mean). "Heat" is an epic, and yet I feel like it was a warm-up to both "Vice" and "Enemies'.

In response to Sam's comment about Dillinger, I really don't think Mann sets out to explain who a person is, at least not in a conventional sense. He's interested in how people (mostly criminals and cops) react to the situations they create, and showing that reaction from one moment to the next. I don't think "Public Enemies" is remotely interested in the details that audiences usually associate with the biopic. His films are all about movement, forward momentum, always "in the moment". I think it's why his choice of music is always so perfect, as mentioned in some of the above comments.

The first example that comes to mind is a remarkable moment in "Miami Vice" when Colin Farrell takes Gong Li for a drink. "How fast is that boat?". That scene. The boat ride, which has very little dialogue, uses contemporary electronic/ambient music (was it Moby?) as well as anything I can think of. The way the scene builds as they sort of feel each other out as the boat bumps and glides over each wave....it's romantic, sexy and kind of epic, and as mentioned, hardly any dialogue. Just great visual structure and brilliant performances.

Anyway I'll cut the comment here...I feel like I could talk about that movie all day.

Kevin J. Olson said...

Ari:

If you're interested I wrote about Miami Vice last month on my blog here: http://kolson-kevinsblog.blogspot.com/2009/06/miami-vice-michael-manns-misunderstood.html

I agree with you...I think the film is a masterpiece.

Kevin J. Olson said...

Woops...forgot the link:

The Miami Vice review is here.

Alexander Coleman said...

Ari: There is little for me to say to such a tremendous comment! Thank you. I completely agree with you that Mann's Public Enemies is no more a biopic than any of his previous films (indeed, the aforementioned Ali may have the trappings of a traditional biopic but is certainly a separate beast). Mann's pictures are, indeed, truly, about movement, and forward movement, about the undulant realities of life, about "the moment."

I also must agree with the extension of Kevin's very astute original comparison between Mann and Melville. They fundamentally examined and reexamined the same themes and interests over and over, and modifying and altering their "plots" and settings to the sufficiently allow each piece to stand on its own while slightly skulking their abundant similarities.

I suppose my qualm with Mann at this point--and hence my inclusion of the Picasso quote--is that as an artist he seems "stuck," and almost spinning his wheels. Coursing through Melville's canon, one sees an inescapable personal, singular vision, with all of its attendant consequences, but each work seems remarkably distinct. My fear is that Mann is gradually weakening in his maturation by repeating so many beats, practically beat-for-beat. Even

That said... You have both unquestionably convinced me to reach for my special-sale $4.50 DVD of Miami Vice sometime this weekend. And I promise to post my thoughts on the picture right here whenever convenient. It would be eerie how similarly we both regarded Vice, Ari, if the low opinion of it was not so widespread. I'll have to take another look, however, and I'll have to do that very soon.

Joel E said...

I think I'd agree with you that Mann is covering familiar ground with Public Enemies and that there are even more direct similarities between this and some of his previous films, especially Heat, but I think it's a mistake to say there's anything necessarily wrong with that. As Kevin pointed out, Melville did the same thing repeatedly, and one could easily argue that John Ford repeated himself thematically and narratively many times. So did Anthony Mann.

Mallick is a more difficult connection for me to make because Mallick's last three films have technical consistencies and some thematic overlap, but really they are applying a consistent aesthetic to different intents.

I enjoyed Public Enemies quite a bit, although I admit it's a flawed movie, mostly because so many people are having such a hard time figuring out exactly what it was about. I think you're getting there by focusing on those closing scenes in the theater and after.

Heat seemed to ultimately be about the two sides of the coin that are the criminal and detective, how they destroy everything around them in their mad dance to outwit each other. Public Enemies seems to me to be about the tragedy of the criminal as celebrity. The more Dillinger attempted to embody the myth of himself he had in his mind, the more the forces around him sought to destroy him, because his celebrity represented a chaotic danger to the systems of power, be they the law, the government, or the syndicate.

I think the movie is flawed because it takes considerable effort to see that difference.

Alexander Coleman said...

Joel, thank you once again for the terrific comment.

I agree that Public Enemies formally wants to be about the fallen Dillinger's acceptance of his celebrity and the subsequent tragedy. As such, I'm afraid the film is too muddled--I would have found it more successful had Dillinger's connection to the public been more firmly established. As it is, Dillinger's enigmatic self-handling as a man beloved by the public remains too mysterious for its own good. This may fit perfectly with the real Dillinger, but it makes for a less interesting film; and with so much "compositing" and other historic short-cuts, it didn't seem as though Public Enemies would shy away from creating more drama for the sake of its narrative than history would deem entirely appropriate.

Compared to a recent film which certainly delves into the mythical relationship between criminal and public, and the former's emergence as celebrity, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Public Enemies seems unsure of itself, noting the historical realities while leaving them alone to stand.

However, I see the point you're making on behalf of the film, Joel. I did enjoy much of it as it was unspooling; ultimately I suppose I wish it had surpassed the categorization of its genre as a cops-and-robbers movie, and it never quite did. Many of the scenes which linger for me have Cotillard in them, so I give the screenplay and Mann significant credit for fashioning an engaging love story in the midst of everything else.

Ari and Kevin, I did indeed view Miami Vice this weekend. While I will say that I liked the film more (and it should be noted this was the director's cut--despite only making the film longer, it was certainly an improvement over the theatrical release), and I perhaps "get" what Mann was going after with greater clarity, I find myself hesitant to jump aboard the "Miami Vice is a masterpice" wagon. I was just happy that the film held up and felt stronger on this viewing; I had almost forgotten how fun watching Colin Farrell was here, as he certainly afforded the film an intensity it unquestionably needed.

I'll also stick up for Mann in one of the more important regards of that film, something so many people criticized when the picture was released. People wanted it to be more of a prototypical "buddy cop action movie," in which Farrell and Foxx would have conversed with one another at great length, through which we would have found out more and more about these two. Mann subverts this expectation. Most of the time, when they do speak, it's in Mann's ultra-terse "cop speak" about informants, Feds and various dope lords. And much of their dialogue is "undercover"; what is almost funny about the film is that the pair seem so comfortable doing what they do, they appear more "at home" while "in character" than not. They're essentially living the life of successful criminals, and this naturally leads to one of the TV show's charms along with the recent film adaptation.

Going back to both the Kevin-Ari discussion of Mann at large as well as Miami Vice, and Joel with regards to Public Enemies, I'd like to say I certainly agree about Mann, being an auteur, is simply continuing to pursue the themes and interests of his past work. I'm just hoping that next time he finds a different way to say what he wants to say. I love his voice, but I'm hoping for a new pitch soon.

Argh, sorry for rambling. Thank goodness I type so fast.

Kevin J. Olson said...

I'm glad you gave Miami Vice another shot. I like your comments about the "undercover" language, which was one of the main points I tired to make in my re-review of the film about a month ago. In typical Mann fashion his protagonists are men of few words who, as you aptly point out, are more at home with their false realites than anything that resembles a "real" life.

It's why the conversation between Ricco and Trudy in the diner is so important. Ricco says something to the extent that Trudy doesn't need to fear for her safety because even if the cartel they are infiltrating run background checks on them, all they're going to find is more lies. Here are two people who have to rely on lies to save their life. Lies shape their identity...and this is one of the reasons why I think Mann deserves comparison to masters like Melville. As I've stated before, Mann, like Melville, is interested in making these unconventional, existential crime pictures.

Joel E said...

Ouch. Yeah, I have to defer to your comparison to Assassination of Jesse James, which is a similar story in many respects but a much sharper and more successful film.

Alexander Coleman said...

Kevin, I almost pointed to that diner scene between Tubbs and Trudy, which, I believe, was not in the theatrical cut, correct? If so, that is a true shame because it was one of the best scenes of the film and one of Foxx's best moments.

"It's why the conversation between Ricco and Trudy in the diner is so important. Ricco says something to the extent that Trudy doesn't need to fear for her safety because even if the cartel they are infiltrating run background checks on them, all they're going to find is more lies. Here are two people who have to rely on lies to save their life. Lies shape their identity...and this is one of the reasons why I think Mann deserves comparison to masters like Melville. As I've stated before, Mann, like Melville, is interested in making these unconventional, existential crime pictures."

You are definitively correct in every way here, Kevin. As I say, that scene should never have been cut out because it sets up what is to happen to Trudy later in the picture. If it was already there, then I suppose I have confused myself, haha.

Joel: Yes, I was saving my comparison to Jesse James as the uppercut blow. :-)

Honestly, though, I think we both agree about what helped make the film richer than it would have been otherwise--the concluding passage with Dillinger in the movie theatre. Hollywood had begun to create its own "takes" on Dillinger and sundry gangsters, and Clark Gable's character in Manhattan Melodrama is one such creation, though a bank-robber he was not.

Alexander Coleman said...

Kevin--I meant to say, once I finish the 12 or so reviews I'm just starting to write (eek!) over the course of the next few days I promise I'll head over and read your Miami Vice piece, because I've never been more interested.

Kevin J. Olson said...

Haha. Take your time Alexander. Also, you're right about the diner scene being cut from the theatrical version. The Director's Cut only adds like 10 minutes I think, but it's amazing how that can affect a film.

Alexander Coleman said...

Ha, thanks, Kevin.

Cutting that scene from the film was one of the dumbest cuts I've ever seen. It set up what will happen to Trudy. Before, it seemed remarkably "cheap" how the thugs were able to grab her and that created a whole new undercurrent of drama out of nowhere. I can't believe how much weaker that made the film.

Anonymous said...

Mann is all style and no substance.

He's a hack. What for instance connects HEAT to COLLATERAL except for the shiny lights at night in LA with lots of shooting and death?

Alexander Coleman said...

Well, firstly, they are films about professionals. This is a running theme of Mann's--and it's not merely Vincent in Collateral who is a "professional." Note how Vincent tells Max why he chose him of all people: "Because you're good." That directly mirrors Al Pacino's officer telling other cops in Heat, "...They're good," speaking of the gang of criminals he must now pursue. Mann has an instrinsic respect for professional, talented men who go about their job with seriousness and sincerity. It's all over his films, and that is just one thematic element (I'm sorry, I'm too busy at the moment to continue).

Film-Book dot Com said...

Manhattan Melodrama was my favorite segment of the film as well. Once again we are in consensus, in part anyway. That is the one scene in Public Enemies that I know I am going to watch multiple times. As that camera slowly zoomed in on Depp, I was thinking: "God damn Mann is good." I never thought that at any other time during the film. The film itself does not have replay value. Like you said, we have seen it before and better executed.

I didn't catch the latent similarities between this film and Mann's others. The obvious ones I did catch.

Off topic, thanks for reading my Star Trek (2009) review. Unlike you, myself, and your patrons, many people will not read a review if it is over the 900 word range.

Alexander Coleman said...

Film-Book, thank you for this insightful comment. We seem to mirror one another's responses to the film. The denouement is brimming with richness and intensity; much of the film is slack or only "narratively" taut. There are numerous scenes that inspire nominal suspense--Dillinger's escape, for instance--but very little of it adds up to much.

Compared to say, Collateral, to name one random example, from which I still remember poetically rendered sequences which informed the audience of the states of the psyches of the two respective characters, Public Enemies feels like a superbly-produced period piece, all dressed up but with nowhere to go.

Perhaps I would have preferred a 140-minute film of watching Johnny Depp watch a film, but that is simply how I felt about the film, which is unfortunate.

You're most welcome--I'm trying to read more of your reviews, too, so know I'm mercurially around, even when I don't comment. I hope you check out my Star Trek piece, which I believe to be inferior to yours for a number of reasons.

Thanks again!

Film-Book dot Com said...

Thanks Alexander.

I did begin your Star Trek review yesterday and once again you touched on an area I did not: Abrams' past as a TV director and how that has influenced his films. I have not finished reading it yet though.

Public Enemies is nothing compared to Collateral, except the theater scene. That is the scene where you gain insight in main character, which is present all throughout Collateral and its characters.

Alexander Coleman said...

Thank you, Film-Book.

We certainly agree about Mann! :)

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メール said...

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逆¥交際 said...

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メル友 said...

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神待ち said...

家出をして不安な少女たちの書込が神待ち掲示板に増えています。一日遊んであげたり、家に招いて泊まらせてあげるだけで、彼女たちはあなたに精一杯のお礼をしてくれるはずです

乱交 said...

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アブノーマル said...

SM・露出・スワッピング・レズ・女装・フェチなど…普通じゃ物足りないあなたが思う存分楽しめる世界!貴方だけのパートナーを探してみませんか?アブノーマルでしか味わえない至福の時をお過ごしください

セレブラブ said...

セレブラブでは毎月10万円を最低ラインとする謝礼を得て、セレブ女性に快楽を与える仕事があります。無料登録した後はメールアプローチを待つだけでもOK、あなたも当サイトで欲求を満たしあう関係を作ってみませんか

裏バイト said...

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救援部 said...

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メル友募集 said...

冬に1人ボッチで家でご飯とかオヤスミなんて寂しすぎるょ~~っ!こんなところに書き込んだら削除されちゃいそうだけど少しでもきっかけ作らなくっちゃと思って書いてみましたっ!!気軽に会ったり出来たりする方ってこの掲示板見てませんか~!?良かったらメールくださいね★フリメだったら私気付けないんで携帯のアドレス乗せておくねっ!! love-sexy@docomo.ne.jp

失恋 said...

失恋は心に深い傷を残します。その傷を癒す特効薬、それは新しい出会い。あなたの心を癒す、素晴らしい出会いを当サイトで見つけて、笑顔を取り戻してください

高額バイト said...

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交際 said...

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神待ちサイト said...

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露出 said...

普通のプレイじゃ絶対味わえない快感、それは野外露出プレイ。最初は嫌がっていた女も次第にハマっていって、その内それが快感に変わってきます。野外露出プレイで興奮度アップ間違い無し

友達 said...

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keep the loud beating sound in your ear to avoid facing a silent space. If the world does not listen to that word, maybe not forget again. Glancing through
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Uno said...

The young man bent down to look at his hat and bright smile is breathtaking. His hand stroked it softly, the words "Fighting" was written in squiggly blue
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Uno said...

comes through us, bikes rumbling up memories. I'd love to know who she Yunho is like, really want to know the blue train in his memories has to be dawn yet. That winter morning, I felt the first time are also at hand so cold Yunho.
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Uno said...

While in New York, Yunho also occasionally write to me even though I never responded. He told stories about his daily life, about the early mornings the ship sail out to sea and ocean winds pale green
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Uno said...

I sat staring at the cup of cappuccino in hand. Slowly, I put a small spoon in circles around the rim of the cup. 1 lap, 2 laps, 3 laps, ... every week like that, speeding. Foam layer vortices rotating waves
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Uno said...

much so he does the same as living in a dome more space to the blinding light can not awake. And this result, my mind is always drowsy not focus well.
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Uno said...

"You know ... to noon Choikang that he left the Earl's restaurant Hee Chul to quash the whole belly is regarded as the kingdom bik all" Su laughed, "He is well known that short spry as a food ... j is a well ...
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Uno said...

"Else how beautiful ... because it it?" Choi Kang smiled at him, "I know what love is important, but people should remember Jung Yunho, there must be put on the love that is faith and obligations. Do
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Uno said...

Jaejoong must die? The people there ... fragile elegance too weak to be able to cultivate hand killed. Red blood too cruel to have to fall on her pure white skin. Why was fate, that person is selected and we also selected
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uknowme said...

While in New York, Yunho also occasionally write to me even though I never responded. He told stories about his daily life, about the early mornings the ship sail out to sea and ocean winds pale green
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