2009-07-24 / Entertainment/Lifestyles

MovieScope

'Public Enemies' - Bullets Over Boredom
By Robert Snyder

Somewhere within the 2 hours and 13 minutes of "Public Enemies" is a great movie.

From the opening prison break through the countless bank heists to the sensitive outlaw-in-love story, the Michael Mann film is loaded with strong scenes and a powerful performance by the always-amazing Johnny Depp as the legendary Depression-era gangster John Dillinger.

However, the shapeless storyline sinks the action into lethargy, sending audience members to their watches in hopes that the end is near. And that end is no surprise, with the famous Dillinger assassination outside Chicago's Biograph Theatre. In fact, we know "Enemies" is in trouble, when excerpts from the 1934 Clark Gable crime classic, "Manhattan Melodrama," observed by the bank robber in his last moments, prove more interesting than the Depp vehicle.

While "Enemies" features an insightful portrayal of Dillinger girlfriend Billie Frechette (Marion Cotillard. Oscar-winner for "La Vie en Rose"), Christian Bale's G-man Melvin Purvis is yet another in a series of stiffjawed straight men ("The Dark Knight," "Terminator Salvation") for whom the actor gets upstaged by the likes of the late Heath Ledger, Sam Worthington and now Depp in far more dynamic roles.

As for the law enforcers, Billy Crudup actually makes J. Edgar Hoover three-dimensional in his struggle to bring modern crime-fighting technology into the FBI, while pushing torture to secure information the old-fashioned way ("Take off the white gloves," he orders).

Another nod to today's headlines is the obvious analogy to the badness of banks and the evil associated with those who supposed to be safeguarding our money, When robbing one, Dillinger-Depp turns to a customer and says, "We're not here for your money. We're here for the bank's money." Still, the Robin-Hood metaphor plays more effectively in Warren Beatty's 1967 "Bonnie and Clyde."

In fact, if you're up for a truly great film on Depression-era crime, pick up the DVD of Beatty's breakthrough film. And you won't worry about your watch.

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