Monday, July 6, 2009

Monday Movie Day Reviews

Well, I watched a lot of good movies this week. It's rather difficult to try writing four solid film reviews when one is anticipating the birth of one's son. So here's the deal: one normal review, three haiku reviews. Enjoy.

Public Enemies (2009): John Dillinger robs banks. He's good at it. He's charming, intelligent, and loyal to his friends. He seems like the kind of guy you'd share a drink with or who you'd want your back in a fight. With graceful leaps over bank counters and a steady coolness, Dillinger seems to have it all together. Too bad he's a criminal. He's a bad guy you want to be good.

Melvin Purvis catches criminals. He's good at it too. He's collected, analytical, with a cold exterior but a warm heart. After taking down robber Pretty Boy Floyd, Purvis is given the task of capturing John Dillinger. Too bad he's just a subordinate, a grunt working for the likes of a publicity-loving J. Edgar Hoover. He's a good guy with some serious flaws.

Director Michael Mann likes blurring the lines of morality, making it difficult to know who you're supposed to be rooting for. His crime films are less about the action--though there's always plenty of that--and much more a character study of the types of people who end up robbing banks and locking up criminals. What goes on in the mind of a criminal when he's not shooting his way out of a bank? What keeps an FBI agent up at night? Where does love, friendship, and loss fit into the story? Mann slowly reveals the answers to these questions as two men are pitted against each other in a battle of wits and bullets.

Public Enemies is shot in gritty sepia tones with a sense of urgency. The shootout scenes in Crown Point penitentiary and the Little Bohemia lodge are gripping and intense, with the camera shakily following the cops and criminals as they fire off hundreds of rounds. The camera lingers on close-ups of Dillinger's face, especially during the touching moments between him and his loved one, Billie Frechette. Much more depth and insight is learned from their eyes than their words. The film tells Dillinger's story in choppy acts, forcing the audience to keep their attention focused to fully appreciate what is happening onscreen.

Mann's fuzzy moral compass makes Public Enemies a worthy addition to the crime genre. There are cops and robbers, but every person is a mixed bag of motives. Dillinger's loyalty to his compatriots is noble, as is his desire to keep the violence to a minimum. Purvis mistakenly guns down three civilians at Little Bohemia and lets the majority of gangsters get away, showing his inexperience in gun fights. Both men have their faults and their merits; both are men of principle and action. In a brief face-off in a jail (not historically accurate, by the way; Dillinger and Purvis never actually met), the two men give cold stares and sarcastic quips, sizing each other up with a mutual respect and a competitive spirit.

Overall, Public Enemies is a multi-layered crime film with solid direction and strong actors. It's one of the better films of 2009.

Taken (2009):
Besson-styled action.
Decent, but predictable;
Too bleak to enjoy.

Waltz with Bashir (2008):
Grimly artistic.
Most authentic war film yet.
Broke me; hard to watch.

Australia (2008):
Picturesque epic;
Too long, yet still enthralling.
The Nullah kid rocks.

1 comment:

  1. I liked Taken. Better than most of Besson and Morel's recent work.