Johnny Depp Stars in Michael Mann's Arty Film About John Dillinger
Directed and co-written by Michael Mann (Last of the Mohicans, Heat, Collateral), Public Enemies (2009) stars Johnny Depp as legendary Depression-era bank robber John Dillinger. Depp is supported by Marion Cotillard (La Vie en Rose) as Dillinger's lover and Christian Bale as the federal lawman assigned to bring the outlaw down. These three actors, along with Billy Crudup as FBI founder J. Edgar Hoover, give topnotch performances.
In Public Enemies, Mann has made a big-budget art film about Dillinger's life during 1933-34. There are no flashbacks, and the characters seldom talk directly about their feelings. There isn't much of a plot; instead, the story is told impressionistically, unfolding in episodes that inexorably lead to lawmen shooting Dillinger dead. The receptive viewer is gradually enveloped by the film's accumulation of detail.
Mann is expert at capturing action in the service of story, as shown by the bank robbery sequences and two spectacular jailbreaks. He photographed the movie in high-definition digital, which works especially well for the big nighttime shootout at a bucolic lodge. But Mann is also good at creating quieter moments, such as Dillinger dancing with coat-check girl Billie Frechette (Cotillard) to "Bye Bye Blackbird." It's ultimately Dillinger's love affair with Billie that gives the film most of its emotional impact.
The movie doesn't fully develop its third major character, federal agent Melvin Purvis (Bale), but he is depicted as a courtly gentleman who is deeply troubled by the down-and-dirty nature of his job.
Director's Commentary, Video Bonus Materials and Digital Copy
Disc One of the Public Enemies Two-Disc Special Edition contains a feature-length audio commentary by director Michael Mann and the 10-minute featurette "Larger Than Life Adversaries." Mann's commentary is informative as he gives background and details about his thinking as he created the movie's special world. The featurette has interesting old photos and archival footage of the real-life John Dillinger and the real-life Melvin Purvis, and Mann, Depp and Bale express their ideas about how these two historical figures were portrayed as characters in the film.
Disc Two of the DVD set contains four featurettes with a total runtime of 49 minutes. The 20-minute "Michael Mann: Making Public Enemies" shows the director and principal actors shooting various scenes, and Jerry Scalise, the convicted robber who served as technical consult, appears briefly. The nine-minute "Last of the Legendary Outlaws" is about how Dillinger was pretty much the last of the American individual outlaws before organized crime took over, and Bryan Burrough, the author of the book on which much of the movie was based, is heard from. The 10-minute "On Dillinger's Trail: The Real Locations" describes how location shooting was done at the Crown Point, Indiana, jail, at the Little Bohemia lodge in Wisconsin, and in front of Chicago's Biograph Theater. Finally, the 10-minute "Criminal Technology" is primarily about the guns used by Dillinger and his cronies, including the Thompson submachine gun.
There's also a digital copy of the feature film on Disc Two.
Below I have listed all the details for the Two-Disc Special Edition DVD set containing Public Enemies.
Release Date: December 8, 2009
Feature Film Runtime: 2 hours 20 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Gangster Violence and Some Language
Aspect Ratio 2.40:1, Color
English 5.1 Dolby Digital
Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital
French 5.1 Dolby Digital
Descriptive Video Service
English Captions for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
Audio Commentary by Director Michael Mann
Larger Than Life Adversaries (10 min.)
Michael Mann: Making Public Enemies (20 min.)
Last of the Legendary Outlaws (9 min.)
On Dillinger's Trail: The Real Locations (10 min.)
Criminal Technology (10 min.)