Public Enemies

By Mark Ramsey | 2009/07/05

Ah, the crime of a simpler time.

When the prisons were filled with hardened criminals with fresh haircuts in striped pajamas. Men who actually used the word “see” at the end of every sentence as in “stick ‘em up, see?” Men who didn’t need to break out of prison because it was so easy to serpentine your way out. Men who referred to their dames as “sister” despite being unrelated. Men with tough yet laughable names like Melvyn and Homer. Men with Chipmunk names like Alvin, Simon, and Theodore.

Ah, those were the days, when folks robbed banks instead of the other way around. When men wore hats for fashion rather than to cover what was left of their hair. When men referred to their love muscle as “Prince Albert,” even though His Highness wore a helmet rather than a crown.


Who knew that Dillinger called his penis “Prince Albert”? And what does it mean that mine is “Queen Isabella”?

It’s a dicey thing to make a period film in an age where audiences prefer exclamation marks. Particularly if you’re Michael Mann, who would rather project a film in slow motion than have it run less than two and a half hours.

Johnny Depp is John Dillinger, the Demon Gangster of Fleet Street, a brutal killer, and – in accordance with the bad-boy fantasies of teenage girls everywhere – a really sweet boyfriend. And I mean to both his girlfriend and his hookers.

Evidently, getting caught was extraordinarily difficult back in the day. The FBI had a task force to catch Dillinger, but despite the task there wasn’t much force. These guys couldn’t catch an STD from Brett Michaels.

Dillinger is everywhere – out in the open: There’s John at the track. And there’s John at the movies. And there’s John at a fine restaurant. And there’s John on the street in his straw hat searching for the other three members of his barbershop quartet.

Why, Dillinger would almost have to stroll right into the task force headquarters to be recognized – and then he strolls right into the task force headquarters without being recognized. This is like Osama Bin Laden taking the White House Tour before returning to his cave away from cave.


As G-Man Melvyn Purvis said, “If only Dillinger’s dame would wear an ‘I’m with Public Enemy #1′ t-shirt, our troubles would be over, see?”

Added FBI head J. Edgar Hoover, “Forget Dillinger, let’s pick up his girlfriend – I want to try on her stockings, see?”

Christian Bale returns to the big screen after a long absence of two weeks as Purvis, doing his best Matthew McConaughey accent – that’s two accents removed from his own. It was thanks to Bale that Mann dropped this into the credits: “No Director of Photography was harmed during the making of this picture.”

“I’m imitating McConaughey because I want to prove to Hollywood that I, too, can be cast in romantic comedies opposite Kate Hudson,” said Bale. “Assuming there’s a sequence where I beat the living Hell out of her.”

Listen, ya mug, Public Enemies is great if your goal is to count down the minutes before the utterly predictable Diana Krall jazz club appearance.

But if it’s heat you want, rent Heat.


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