Everyone wants Johnny Depp to shave, but when he does it’s often disappointing. In Public Enemies he plays John Dillinger. The movie answers such questions about the notorious gangster as “Did John Dillinger rob banks?” and “Did he inevitably get caught?”
Depp is quiet and grim in this picture, and while he doesn’t deflate the way Nicolas Cage does when he tries to underplay, it’s still a little dead. This Dillinger is an unknowable, not terribly likable character.
He has a girlfriend, played by Edith Piaf, who is an excellent actress, but remarkably doesn’t sing. Instead, some blues rockers approximate the feel of the depression, and some indie chanteuses moan some jazz tunes. Piaf can’t carry the picture, and while this movie is probably a love story, they’re just not together long enough to form a true relationship. The audience is given plenty of time to bond with Dillinger however, but the date never heats up.
Christian Bale’s here, with a less than convincing Southern Accent, as well as Giovanni Ribisi with an utterly convincing mumble. Lot of mumbling. I kept turning up the volume until the shootouts blew out my eardrums.
Michael Mann can shoot some fine atmospheric scenes. He runs a good crane shot and he’s good at action, even if it gets confusing. Whoever does the sound editing deserves this movie’s compensatory Oscar. Really good bullet ricocheting sounds.
Towards the end Dillinger is hiding out from the man. He grows a mustache to disguise himself. It’s the best part of the movie! If only Willie Wonka had a goatee! Beard it up, Johnny!