I want to start by saying that this film has not been particularly well reviewed. Director Michael Mann's reputation precedes him. With films like Miami Vice and Collateral on his resume, he has earned, I think undeservedly, a reputation for large-scale, glitzy films that are somewhat, well, soulless. Even if there is an element of truth to the claims about his directorial style, he certainly has found an effective way to combat it. What do you do if you're a director accused of neglecting your actors' ‘inner lives?’ Hire three actors…Johnny Depp, Christian Bale and Marion Cotillard…known for bringing rich inner lives to the screen. Done.
The film is the story of John Dillinger (Depp), the legendary Depression-era bank robber known for his lightning, almost paramilitary-style assaults on banks with a trusty crew and getaway driver. Dillinger brags to reporters that he can rob a bank and empty the vault and all the teller drawers in one minute 40 seconds. His cavalier style makes him the target of J. Edgar Hoover's (Billy Crudup) newly formed Bureau of Investigation. Hoover quickly declares Dillinger Public Enemy No. 1 and puts his own ‘pretty boy,’ Melvin Purvis (Bale), on the case. And from there, it's cat and mouse.
Yes, the movie is slick, and yes, Michael Mann directs the Dillinger character as more of a legend than a man. But guess what? It's terrific. I loved it. The acting is, as you would imagine, spectacular,there is one scene where Dillinger gives his girl, Billie (Cotillard), a fur and an entire conversation takes place with their eyes (Of course, they end up in bed, so I'm guessing she liked it). Granted, Christian Bale seems to have some trouble parting with his throaty Batman voice, but still…It's an 8.