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Dillinger uncensored

Michael Mann tells the story of gangster John Dillinger without sweeteners or clichÃ'©s

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Like a good surgeon, a bank robber must maintain a state of order while chaos and bloodshed threaten to erupt at any moment. With time (and law enforcement) in close pursuit, the thief relies on both animalistic cunning and advanced calculation to perform his monetary extraction. This dichotomy between precision and violence, rationality and destruction, finds its way into many of the films by American director Michael Mann. Like his contemporary Stanley Kubrick, Mann instinctively recognizes a showdown between these opposing forces as gripping drama on epic scale. Once again the filmmaker gives in to his obsession with methodical gangsters in his new feature Public Enemies.

The story follows the exploits of true-life Depression-era robber John Dillinger. His series of successful lootings across the Midwest catches the attention of FBI director J. Edgar Hoover (Billy Crudup), who quickly assembles a “Dillinger Squad” led by Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale). Beginning in the 1930s with stars like James Cagney, Hollywood returns repeatedly to this archetypal antihero for inspiration. Johnny Depp has thankfully survived the prancing pirates phase of his career, and in Enemies he captivates with a gritty and cold performance. Dillinger is the rogue we can’t help but admire — merciless to his enemies, yet still offers his coat to a pretty girl shivering on a street corner.

After an intense opening sequence in which Dillinger boldly breaks into prison to free his jailed cronies, he meets Billie Frechette (Marion Cotillard) in a ballroom and immediately courts her. Apparently impressed by his stubborn persistence, Billie becomes his moll and together prove a formidable match to Hoover’s often times incompetent G-Men.

The script’s breathless pace finely suits a story of criminals on the lam. Mann hurls at us, in rat-a-tat succession, several well choreographed and engrossing gunfights that culminate with Dillinger’s final stand against the law. A plot this taut won’t dwell on anything inessential. It takes Dillinger a pitiful 15 seconds to sum up his backstory for Billie. When reminded daily of your onrushing doom, what does the past matter? Each event in Public Enemies progresses with the cold logic of cause and effect, that great wheel groaning ever onward, as well-oiled and unforgiving as a cocked gun. Indeed, the sound of shots fired in the film carry with them all the finality of clocks clanging at day’s end.

This criminal posse has only the present moment to rely on. Time for them is a thing both concrete and ephemeral, and for this reason extremely precious. Dillinger keeps a picture of Billie in his pocket watch — love captured in a freeze frame, juxtaposed with the merciless ticking down of the fate that awaits these lovers. Using a rigorous handheld aesthetic throughout, cinematographer Dante Spinotti (who also shot Heat for Mann) films every scene in Enemies with a sense of urgency. Mann has looked to the future in telling this tale from history, with the latest in digital camera technology. The portability of such cameras allows the director to paint a more intimate portrait of these vicious lawbreakers.

This intimacy makes Mann’s work a thrill to watch. Seeking refuge within a darkened movie theater, a part of us finds freedom and release in rooting for the bad guy. Dillinger rejected the order of the status quo and instead built order on his own terms (and made a LOT of money in the process). Sounds a little like the American Dream, doesn’t it? Though Enemies plays for almost two-and-a-half hours, it ends with you greedy for more. And that, in a sweltering mid-summer wasteland of overhyped and underwhelming blockbusters, is criminal.   


Public Enemies

Stars: Johnny Depp, Christian Bale, Marion Cotillard

Directed by: Michael Mann

Rated: R for gangster violence and some language

Now playing in these theaters:

Century Olympia: Thurs 10:10 a.m., 11:20 a.m., 1:15, 2:30, 4:20, 5:50, 7:30, 9:10, 10:40. Fri-Tues 10:10 a.m., noon, 1:30, 3:15, 4:50, 6:30, 8:20, 9:50.   

Galaxy Narrows 8: Thurs-Tues 10:15 a.m., 1:10, 4:05, 7, 9:55.  

Galaxy Uptown Theatre: Thurs-Tues 10 a.m., 1, 4, 7, 10. Tues no 10.

Galaxy Uptown Theatre (VIP): Thurs-Mon 7.  

Lakewood Cinema 15: Thurs 11:15 a.m., 12:40, 1:20, 2:20, 3, 4:20, 5:20, 6, 7:25, 8:20, 9, 10:40. Fri-Tues 12:10, 12:40, 3:40, 4:15, 6:55, 7:40, 10:05, 10:40. Tues no 10:05, 10:40.

Lakewood Towne Center 12: Thurs 10:05 a.m., 10:50 a.m., 1, 2, 4:10, 5, 7:10, 7:55, 10:10, 10:50. Fri-Sun 10:05 a.m., 10:50 a.m., 1, 2, 4:10, 5, 7:10, 7:55, 10:10, 10:50. Mon-Tues 10:50 a.m., 1, 2, 4:10, 5, 7:10, 8, 10:10.  

Longston Place 14: Thurs 10:15 a.m., 10:45 a.m., 1:30, 2:30, 4:35, 7:10, 7:40, 10:20, 10:45. Fri-Tues 11:30 a.m., 12:15, 2:35, 3:20, 6:40, 7:25, 9:55, 10:30.     

Regal Martin Village 16: Thurs 12:35, 1:05, 3:45, 4:10, 6:50, 7:15, 9:55, 10:25. Fri-Tues 12:40, 1:10, 3:45, 4:15, 6:50, 7:20, 9:55, 10:25. Tues no 9:55, 10:25. 

Yelm Cinemas @ Prairie Park: Thurs-Tues 11:45 a.m., 2:40, 6:20, 9:20. 


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