Quick DVD pick of the week – "Public Enemies" (Universal Pictures)

There just doesn’t seem to be enough reality when it comes to action and adventure flicks anymore. I know, such a genre has never teetered on everything looking and feeling completely real, but back in the day it was a bit more raw and rugged. You remember; those flicks where you could really feel the intensity build and build with each twist or turn of the camera. Its’ all too easy now with the emergence of CGI, almost too smooth and seamless, which is why I appreciate director’s like Michael Mann. He appreciates the art of moviemaking in its most vulnerable form, as depicted with his film “Public Enemies,” which can be found on DVD at your local retail outlet or online at Netflix.com.
Adapted from Bryan Burrough’s non-fiction book, Public Enemies: America’s Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933-34; the story here follows the trials and tribulations of FBI agent Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale), as he attempts to catch and put away bank robber’s like Baby Face Nelson (Stephen Graham), Pretty Boy Floyd (Channing Tatum) and John Dillinger (Johnny Depp). Set during the depression era, these so-called ‘public enemies’ became cult heroes of sorts, as each would leave their mark in some special way. After catching and killing Floyd, Purvis is promoted by FBI director J.Edgar Hoover (Billy Crudup) and told to catch and bring down public enemy #1, John Dillinger. Of course, doing so was no easy task, as each time Purvis drew near, Dillinger got away, leading to one insane goose chase after another. But, after so many successful take’s, Dillinger started to get sloppy, especially after meeting Billie Frechette (Marion Cotillard). What he thought would only be another piece to his ever-growing entourage became much more, further complicating matters for Dillinger as the FBI drew closer, leading to one good-old-fashioned showdown that will sure to have you fired up when it’s all said and done.

In a film that really doesn’t require a big cast, director Michael Mann sure put one together for the ages. And leading them all was the infallible Johnny Depp, who can pretty much do anything he wants given his recent resume in Hollywood. When I first saw he was going to play this role, I actually questioned it, unsure if he could pull off a character as diverse as John Dillinger. To no avail, he did and truly impressed me every step of the way, as I couldn’t help but get caught in all the moments Depp mastered. Maybe it was the crafty camerawork by Mann, but Depp had this ease at which he operated, thus making you love his character, which ironically was about as conniving as it got. He truly was brilliant and when that’s the case, you can’t help but love the supporting cast as well. Such names like Christian Bale and Oscar winner Marion Cotillard, were amazing in scenes opposite Depp, proving they each can act outside their comfort zone when asked. Other notables like Billy Crudup, Giovanni Ribisi, Carey Mulligan, Leelee Sobieski and Stephen Dorff all made their presence known in short spurts, rounding out the cast, which ironically didn’t seem to be all that packed.
A lot of people may not realize this, but Michael Mann is not your typical Hollywood director. He won’t just rattle off one meaningless film after another, like some directors do. Maybe that’s because he is also a writer and producer, but either way, I like waiting for his films to come around every few years. Many have no clue who Mann is, and frankly couldn’t name more than one movie he has directed or produced, but he’s one of my favorite directors for one simple reason, which is he never overdoes it. No matter the project, Mann seems to always make it all feel so effortless. If anything, this might work against him sometimes, but to me, it’s a prime example of why he succeeds with stories like the one in “Public Enemies.” And after watching this film for the second time on DVD, I get the feeling he had wanted to make a film for awhile. It was too easy to feel Mann’s touch in places, often going out of his way with extended gun fights and action sequences, in a manner that was never too much and in-line with the era this story was built around. So even though the running time ran close to two and half hours, it didn’t deter the enjoyment you had watching this great cast move in out of some truly incredible shot sequences by a director that should be more well known than he is.

The Best of Christian Bale Showcased on Satellite TV

Christian Bale has been in the movies ever since a young age, but his popularity and drive do not seem to be diminishing one bit. Among his most famous roles to date, the Batman saga and American Psycho stand out, but he has built an impressive career in the past decade. If you haven’t seen some of his recent star turns, tune in to satellite TV networks in your area and check out his best films. Here are the top five, now playing.
1. American Psycho. If you want to talk about a star-making performance for someone who has been in films since a very young age, this film would be that for Bale. Playing a Wall Street yuppie who crosses the line and begins killing people, Bale was celebrated for his commitment – both physically and mentally – to the role. The novel by Brett Easton Ellis gets a fair shake in this faithful adaptation by Mary Harron. See this film uncut on HBO networks in high definition.
2. The Prestige. Two ambitious magicians go into something of a mortal struggle in early 20th century London in this Christopher Nolan film. Bale is one half of the riveting pair of leads, with Hugh Jackman as his opponent. To say the film is star-studded would be an understatement, as Michael Caine, Scarlett Johansson and even David Bowie show up in prominent roles. In the end, it is Bale and Jackman in the duel of duels. Check out this excellent picture on premium satellite TV networks.
3. Public Enemies. Johnny Depp has the flashy role as robber and FBI-pursued John Dillinger, but it was Bale who received a lot of positive notices for his role as Purvis, the lawman out to apprehend Dillinger. It’s the type of role that Bale appears made for: a combination of grit and stubbornness make Purvis successful, something which Bale has in spades. Check out this new release in HD.
4. Batman Begins. Before Bale and Nolan in The Prestige, it was Bale and Nolan teaming up for Batman Begins, an ambitious and risk-taking walk into the sacred territory of everyone’s favorite superhero. You’ve never seen a Batman quite like this one. Bale at times is anti-charismatic, unfriendly and even crude. Of course, his heart is of that legendary Batman vintage, as pure as a summer day in the countryside. Look for Morgan Freeman in yet another brilliant role as well.
5. 3:10 to Yuma. One of the great Westerns of the fifties was remade with two characters who have that classic grittiness, Bale and Russell Crowe. Interestingly enough, neither is American, but both have that determination and ease with portraying a character raised on the prairie that makes them perfect for the genre. The plot can be followed without much concentration, like the most formulaic thrillers, but it is the performances of these two leads that make the film a winner. See it on premium satellite networks in HD.
Thanks to Marco for this!