Posts Tagged ‘gangster


Movie Review: Public Enemies



The timeless institution of bank robbing.

Starring Johnny Depp, Christian Bale, Billy Crudup, and Marion Cotillard. Directed by Michael Mann

The story begins in 1933. America is in steeped in the Depression and folks are looking for “heroes” who come in the form of Chicagoland gangsters such as Al Capone, George “Babyface” Nelson and this movie’s lead, John Dillinger (Depp). We watch Dillinger and an associate walk into the Indiana State Penitentiary and bust out a few members of his gang. From there it’s on the road to more bank robberies.

Cut to Melvin Purvis (Bale), a lawman in his own right. He hunts down “Pretty Boy” Floyd and delivers a gut shot via shotgun. Purvis is so good at tracking down offenders that his boss, J. Edgar Hoover (Crudup), puts Purvis in charge of the Chicago office of the Federal Bureau he’s trying to get Congress to recognize and help fund. Purvis accepts the job and makes Dillinger Public Enemy Number One.

Which is just fine with Dillinger who is having too much fun going from robbery to robbery. Along the way he meets, and falls in love with, Billie Frechette (Cotillard), a hat and coat-check girl at a local motel. Dillinger persists to have Billie with him and after many attempts to get away, finally concedes. Dillinger vows to protect her.

But the outside world is closing in on Dillinger. His gang is shot or captured one-by-one. Other criminal associates are going high-tech. Congress is about to pass a bill that will change the prosecution of crimes across state lines. Purvis has tapped Billie’s phone and kept her under close surveillance. Dillinger’s days as a free-wheelin’ “Robin Hood’ bank robber are numbered.

Let me mention what I liked about the movie: Mann went as far as he could to make the film feel authentic. From the radios to the phone taps, clothing to cars, Michael Mann and his crew diligently recreated mid-1930’s Chicago. The film was shot hand-held, which “amplifies” the feeling of being there. The color scheme has a sort of “O Brother, Where Art Thou” muted-down browns, blacks, and whites.

My problem with the movie is the pacing. The first hour+ is bamm-bamm-bamm-bamm-bamm-bamm. Don’t get me wrong, Mann knows how to construct an action sequence (“Heat, “Collateral”) but here it just seems too much; we as an audience don’t have time to connect to who Dillinger is aside from being a bank robber. Then again, maybe that’s all the info Mann had; I don’t know. I began liking Purvis and felt his frustration in trying to capture Dillinger using the “clean cut” officers given to him by Hoover (which were ineffective if not killed) but Dillinger came off as a cowboy that couldn’t be stopped. Maybe he was. And there was that subplot about not following Dietrich’s points, which may have kept Dillinger alive, which seemed underplayed.

In any case the second half of the movie slows down for what people know is going to happen: the assassination of Dillinger. We all seem to know more about that than the man himself. This is where we, the audience, enjoy the movie because 1) characterization and 2) empathy buildup for Dillinger’s end. “Peter Pan” has to grow up only to find that it’s too late. He tries to find a way to save the love of his life. We all know it ends at the Biograph Theater. This is the best part of the film, in my opinion.

There are scenes here and there that are notable. My favorite is when Dillinger walked into the Chicago Police Headquarters and walked around the Dillinger Division. Nice.

I’ll also throw in my two cents on the soundtrack. Great stuff. “Ten Million Slaves” by Otis Taylor was a great song to use. Check it out.

Watch for Giovanni Ribisi as Alvin Karpis and Leelee Sobieski as Polly Hamilton.

It’s a good movie that could’ve been great.

My grade: B


Movies on DVD Review: Revolver




Guy Ritchie at his best doing his worst.


Stars Jason Statham, Ray Liotta, Vincent Pastore, and Andre Benjamin. Directed by Guy Ritchie.


Okay, let me explain.


I had somewhat high-hopes for this movie. Ritchie is famous (or infamous) for two of the best gangster films of the last twenty years: “Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels,” and “Snatch.” Most of us film geeks/nerds/buffs write-off “Swept Away” because… well, Madonna had a lot to do with it. Anyways, Ritchie climbed back onto the genre saddle and delivered… “Revolver.”


“Revolver” tells the story of Jake (Statham), a man released from prison after choosing 7 years of solitary confinement versus 14 regular. He has a cache of money but what he really wants to do is payback the guy he did the job for, Macha (Liotta). After he cleans up in a card game against Macha he leaves, with Macha sending his men to assassinate Jake. Problems occur when Jake is mysteriously saved by Avi (Benjamin) and Zach (Pastore), two loan sharks that ensnare Jake to use his money to loan out to other people.


What begins as a gangster drama with supernatural/ mysterious undertones quickly unravels to a point where, as the end approaches, you have the feeling the movie should have stopped earlier. I am a big fan of cerebral movies however this takes the image of trying to be cerebral without going the complete distance.


Let me pause for a moment and tell you that this is not a horrible movie. In fact, if you’re a die-hard fan of Guy Ritchie and/or an upcoming film-person, I suggest giving it a rental. Why? Because Ritchie uses anything and everything that inspires him when he makes a film, trying to compliment style with substance. There are a few moments when the picture does erratic shifting editing. One scene has Liotta in a living room-sized tanning bed, completely blue. Another scene has an Asian gangster sitting under dark room lighting with his naked girlfriend, who is keeping a beer strategically placed. Finally, one of my favorites involves a TV set showing anime of the scene that’s taking place.


Overall, it was okay. As a film person, worth watching once. Would I recommend it to non-film people? Not really.


My grade: C