Who? Johnny Depp (slick), Christian Bale (stern), Marion Cotillard (loyal), Billy Crudup (stiff)
What’s it about? Legendary stickup king John Dillinger force-feeding it to The Man during the Great Depression, tracked by FBI agent Melvin Pervis (Bale) in some killer 1930s suits and distracted by Marion Cotillard’s furtive charms. In a summer so far bedraggled with Will Ferrell wrestling dinosaurs, CGI Arnie, Spock and a 200ft vacuum cleaner, it’s an infinitely more compelling proposition: a film about real people breaking the rules and stealing lots of money. And placed within the current atmosphere of jettisoned workforces and general public outrage, director Michael Mann’s timing couldn’t be better. And nor (with only a whimpering caveat) could the film.
What’s good about it? There are no CGI robots or exploding planets, but Public Enemies is still the cinematic experience of the year. It’s shot in HD (or whatever the crystalline, movie world equivalent is), which is disorientating to start with. You’d be forgiven for thinking that the 1930s should look like the Godfather movies - slightly sepia and blurry at the edges. Instead, it’s a far more brutal undertaking. When the Tommy guns rat-a-tat-tat, blood flies and tobacco crackles; it’s the closest you’ll ever get to being a real gangster. Unless, of course, you are a real gangster. And you do use a Tommy gun. In which case: RESPECT.
Check out this clip - a UK exclusive - from one of the film's key shoot-outs...
But the celebration of detail doesn’t stop there. Dillinger’s most famous jailbreak, his most fabled gunfight and the site of his death are all spookily filmed in their real-life locations. Mann's a notorious stickler for accuracy, but not even Bryan Burrough, who wrote the factual opus on which the film is based, would have expected that. And forgive us for getting excited about the brilliant gangster names over, say, Depp’s achingly cool performance, the warts and all magnifying glass on male psychology or the abundant breathless moments, but, hey: Baby Faced Nelson? Pretty Boy Floyd? You couldn’t – and they didn’t – make them up.
What’s bad about it? As beautiful and charming and French as Marion Cotillard is, the love story feels flat. There are at least three occasions when Billy Frechette huffs at Dillinger about his high-risk lifestyle choices, only to be placated by some wizard charm and a pat on the head. It’s cool, but it’s Kwik-Fit romance. In a film that’s almost perfect, it’s the only thing we could think of.
Verdict: An on-the-spot, VIP ushering into the gangster movie hall of fame. It’s a real movie, one which you’ll be proud to say you paid to see. Eat that, Optimus.