Saturday, July 04, 2009

Public Enemies

Last night my wife and I went to see the new movie about John Dillinger, Public Enemies. I agree with one review I'd read: "good but not great."

Getting my criticisms out of the way first, much of the dialogue was unintelligible... the oft-used hand-held camera technique seemed out of place here... Dillinger (played by Johnny Depp) moved around a lot and it was hard to know just where the action was taking place. But most disappointing was the lack of character development. Compared to, say, Bonnie and Clyde, this movie gives you little insight into what made Dillinger so evil. When the movie begins Dillinger is well into his life of crime. There's no context. I had to check the internet to discover that Dillinger's mother died when he was just three and he was cared for as a child by his sister. But you see little of that heartache in Depp's Dillinger.

Christian Bale in the role of G-Man Melvin Purvis shows so little emotion that I felt none of the frustration Purvis must have experienced as Dillinger slipped from his grasp time after time. Why do directors not see that actors are just going through the motions, or that dazzling scenery, costumes, and cinematography do not a good movie make?

Having said that, I did enjoy the scenery, costumes, and cinematography a lot! It was a well crafted movie technically. I love seeing details in movies, and there were lots of period details in this movie. One of the shootouts after a bank hold-up was well choreographed, as was the final scene outside the movie theatre. Marion Cotillard was very good as Dillinger's love interest, Billie Frechette.

Unfortunately, some of the "good guys" come off looking pretty bad. I always wonder, is this just another example of Hollywood's bash-American propaganda, or are lawmen really as corrupt and mean as they are often depicted?

One spiritual application I got from this movie is how it illustrates the parable of the rich fool in Luke 12. In one scene, Billie asks Dillinger what he wants in life. He says, "I want it all, right now." The rich man in Jesus' parable had the same attitude. Greed is never satisfied. It leads toward destruction of self and others.

Donald Trump once wrote, "The point is that you can't be too greedy." Dillinger found out that you can.

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