Sunday, August 23, 2009

Public Viewing of "Public Enemies"

Last night we saw "Public Enemies" at the Academy Six theater in Pasadena. Such is the nature of summer movies that this flick, which was playing wide just last month, has been relegated to this second-run house where evening shows are $3 each, the movie doesn't fit onto the screen and slops off onto the curtains around it, and folks up in the balcony see no harm in conversing and rattling their jewelry throughout the movie.

Despite the adverse viewing conditions, the movie was gripping. Two things Michael Mann does as well as or better than anyone are shootouts and stylish clothing. Hence we had two plus hours of Johnny Depp, Christian Bale, and others walking around in stylish clothes (with tommy guns as accessories) and engaging in frequent scenic shootouts.

The movie was fairly old-fashioned, and might have come from any era after the passing of the Hayes Code. The violence wasn't much more graphic than what you see on TV, and even the language wasn't about the PG level. Further, it followed the traditional arc of the gangster film: John Dillinger starts the movie as a master criminal, living in style and enjoying his status as Public Enemy Number One. Thanks to the efforts of Bale's Melvin Purvis, and the gentrification of organized crime into a business model that has no place for mavericks like him, his circumstances diminish until he is a hunted animal. It's worth catching on video, if you don't want to see it on second run.

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