Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Public Enemies-- 2 Guns Up (With Reservations)

Warning: For those who would rather not read a review of Public Enemies, until you've seen the movie-- please pass over this post, and explore other posts on The B&C History Blog for now. However in being timely, I offer this review of the new '30s based, mega blockbuster outlaws feature. In searching for images depicting 2 guns up, it seemed I had a choice between the Hitman guy and Lara Croft. I hope you don't mind, but Lara's easier on the eyes. My review of Public Enemies is simple. Great acting, and a strong and mostly accurate portrayal of Dillinger-- although some of the peripheral history is wrong. Of course the principle players including Johnny Depp are fabulous. Also the use of many actual locations, such as North Lincoln Avenue in Chicago, and Little Bohemia are coups for this movie-- and add a "wondrous" period authenticity, that make you feel as though you were there, when it all happened.

However if I have a criticism, it would be that-- what likely should have been a 3 hour movie, was cut down to 2 1/2 hours. Thus to me, the story seemed compressed-- with one part running into the next, almost without the context of time passing. The best way I can describe this, is to say in movie form-- Public Enemies reminded me of what the Beatles attempted and achieved, with their musical "suite" on side 2 of Abbey Road. Abbey Road was genius-- however I'm not sure what I perceived as a similar connected flow of images, worked as well in Public Enemies. Perhaps within the hard hitting pace of this film, a breath could have been taken here and there-- in order to allow time for characters and situations to develop.

Maybe as was the case at the movie's start, if dates were shown on the screen here and there, you would be more a tune to significant periods of time passing. But as it was, without some knowledge of Dillinger-- one might think the entire movie was portraying, the passing of perhaps just a few month's time. Whether this pedal to the metal editing technique was intentional or not I couldn't say. Apparently it worked from the viewpoint of eliminating boredom. But next thing you knew, you realized it was the afternoon of July 22nd, 1934 and then without much ado-- Dillinger was dead. The sporadic and almost polite applause at movie's end, was perhaps a sign this movie didn't quite hit the mark.

One aspect of the story which I feel could have been employed but wasn't, was the reported confusion and confrontation under pressure, between Chicago Police and the Bureau of Investigation-- who hadn't adequately warned the police of the the Bureau's doings outside the Biograph. This would have added an historically accurate element to the story-- "and" would have enhanced the ending by injecting considerable suspense, which seemed somewhat lacking throughout the movie. Its always been my understanding, the Chicago Police could have inadvertently foiled the Dillinger capture attempt-- through their response to a call from the ticket agent at the Biograph, saying that unknown men (Federal Agents) were acting oddly, outside the theater prior to Manhattan Melodrama letting out.

The other disappointment if there was one-- is the inaccuracy of certain historical elements-- such as Lester Gillis dying at the hand of Melvin Purvis, while escaping from the Little Bohemia shootout. A great last dying breath though, in the case of Baby Face Nelson. In reality, Pretty Boy Floyd lived until October '34 and Nelson until November, but I guess to support continuity with Dillinger-- in Public Enemies, both died prematurely, to support the screenplay. "Boots" Hinton commented to me, that those of us who know the facts, are always going to be more critical of facts being missed. This is true. On a positive note-- a most interesting aspect for Bonnie and Clyde aficionados, is that Bureau Special Agent Charles Winstead, who played a key role in the tracking of B&C for the U.S. Bureau of Investigation in Dallas-- is highlighted in this movie. Winstead of course, turned the corner of the alley right behind Dillinger, and was credited with firing perhaps the 1st and fatal shot, in felling John Dillinger.

All in all 2 guns up. Public Enemies is a good movie, but at least for me-- not the epic I had envisioned. Now all can look forward with great anticipation-- to Tonya Holly's The Story of Bonnie and Clyde.


Anonymous said...

hi winston, i have heard that bonnie and clyde are not mentioned in the movie, but does it mention the barker brothers or wilber underhill? just wondering. tank you.

A. Winston Woodward said...

Other criminals are mentioned-- but not one mention of Bonnie & Clyde. I don't recall Underhill or The Barkers either. Mostly North Central states and Chicago area outlaws. Dillinger, Floyd, Nelson. Karpis is mentioned, as Dillinger uses same attorney Karpis was said to-- at least in the movie.

Anonymous said...

thank's winston. perhaps bonnie and clyde, and company will be in "public enemie's" part 2.