Friday, February 29, 2008

Date: January 21, 2008
By: El Mayimbe Source: CAXE

El Mayimbe aqui… Another year, another set of dope scripts. My favorite reader in the world CAXE recently took a look at Michael Mann’s PUBLIC ENEMIES and I have to admit, CAXE got me all jazzed about seeing this. This sounds really hot, and with the addition of Depp and Bale, it should make for a kick ass film. HEAT Meets THE UNTOUCHABLES?! I’m so there in 2009. The film is an adaptation of Bryan Burrough's book "Public Enemies: America's Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933-43," the Universal Pictures project follows the government's attempt to stop the criminals John Dillinger, Baby Face Nelson and Pretty Boy Floyd. Depp is playing Dillinger.

Bale would play Melvin Purvis, who led the FBI's manhunt for Dillinger and captured more public enemies than any other agent in FBI history.

What did CAXE have to say?

Read along… Yo Mayimbe! I just read Michael Mann’s new project Public Enemies. I wasn’t too excited about this project after Miami Vice, but now that I’ve read it – *beep* I cannot wait until 2009 because it seems Michael Mann might actually be back in top form with Public Enemies. This is Heat meets The Untouchables, with the potential for gorgeous settings, well-paced drama, and smoldering action sequences reminiscent of one of best period pieces of all time (at least in my mind), LA Confidential.

Public Enemies is about John Dillinger, but it’s not a bio pic by any means. We pick up in 1933, after Dillinger is already a notorious gangster, and follow him into the last few years of his life as he runs from the law and tries to fit into a world of crime that is quickly rendering his ways obsolete. Johnny Depp is perfect for Dillinger – a seriously spot-on, perfect piece of casting. Christian Bale will shine as Purvis, the unrelenting and Dick Tracy-esque federal agent hunting Dillinger. I’m excited to see who else will join the cast – no doubt a few more heavy-hitters because there are some meaty supporting roles here.

September 1933. JOHN DILLINGER is driven to prison by his partner and confidant, RED HAMILTON. As he gets processed into prison again, several inmates break out and report to Dillinger, who leads them back to Red and the getaway car.

Now we see MELVIN PURVIS, federal agent, run after PRETTY BOY FLOYD. After a good chase, Purvis fires at Floyd and hits him, killing the gangster.

In the throes of the Great Depression, Dillinger sets up shop in Chicago with a network of men, including a gunsmith, a corrupt cop, and a car dealer – he’s nearly invincible: His robberies are perfectly planned – every man on his team has a job and does it well. There are no casualties and to top things off, Dillinger has the public’s support – he is a charismatic and good looking gentleman who is always nice to the civilians, as he assures them he is only after the bank’s money, not theirs.

Meanwhile in Washington, a young politician named J. EDGAR HOOVER tries to get more money from Congress to fight organized crime. Hoover is an arrogant and stubborn elite, but he’s dynamic, gets results, and is bent on ridding the world of men like John Dillinger. Hoover is impressed with Purvis, Back from his capture of Pretty Boy Floyd, and assigns him on his new mission: destroy Dillinger.

Purvis tracks Dillinger and we get to see a number of old surveillance methods, including old fashioned wire taps, but Dillinger is always a step ahead. One night at a club, Dillinger meets a beautiful young girl named BILLIE and falls in love on the spot. He pursues her and his charm wins her over.

But this notoriety wears thin and Dillinger slowly realizes that his Robin Hood style antics of bank robberies may be a thing of the past. As his connections begin to dwindle, Dillinger has to start doing things he thought he’d never do to survive, all while Purvis gets closer in his pursuit – and from Hoover’s orders, it’s clear that Dillinger is wanted more dead than alive.

The first act is just stupendous. It made me skeptical because typically, when a first act is good, the rest can suck. While there is some sagging at later points in the story, however, overall, the rest of the story finishes just as good as the first act – this is a dynamite project. We have a great, twisting plot that balances Dillinger’s crime story and his love affair with the overall picture of organized crime in the 1930s and how the government was trying to stop it.

There are a ton of characters – and all of them, from the big roles down to the small supporting ones, are well written. Given the right cast, this is an ensemble that can shine like the aforementioned LA Confidential, Zodiac, or The Departed. The dialogue is slick and refreshing as well as captivating, all while matching the period. The history literally jumps out at you – in this sense, the historical accuracy in every aspect of this story reminded me a great deal of something in the scope of The Aviator. Also, there are some flat out fantastic action sequences, from the opening jail break to the final tension-filled climax.

I honestly can’t say enough good things about this. I loved it. In terms of comparison with the recent American Gangster – I honestly was a little let down by American Gangster; I liked it, but it was a little underwhelming. I think that Public Enemies is going to be everything American Gangster wasn’t for me – the story is tighter, the drama and romance better written, and the set pieces just rife with potential.

Honestly, the only criticism I would have for Public Enemies is the ending. I can forgive a weak film with a great ending, but I have a hard time forgiving a great film with a weak ending. This ending isn’t weak – the ending is kind of… a letdown. It makes total sense and resolves an important piece of the story, but my problem isn’t with the scene itself, but we need a bigger ending – something worthy of such a kick ass film, because, in the end, it’s all about the ending. It doesn’t take much to please me – even just a half a page bigger in scope and I’m happy. Let’s hope that an idea has been cooking in Mann’s head for this project during the strike.

I cannot think of anything else I did not like. Public Enemies now tops my list of films to see in 2009, and that, my friends, cannot come soon enough.

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