How many times has Hollywood revelled in the gangster film? Countless times, with almost every notable actor having tried his hand at essayingthe Bonnie and Clyde fable or the Scarface anti-heroics.
Film: Public Enemies (Crime)
Cast: Johnny Depp, Marion Cottilard, Christian Bale
Direction: Michael Mann
Duration: 2 hours 13 minutes
And yet, there are still some directors who manage to reinvent the genre, even though the gangster hero's dalliance with crime and his cat-and-mouse brush with the law is something you've seen before.
Director Michael Mann's one such auteur who creates a whole new atmospherics for his period biopic on John Dillinger, the balsy bank robber who plagued the law agencies with his daring heists during the Depression years. Shot in high-definition digital, the film is high on detail and pictoral opulence as it meticulously captures the rise and sudden fall of Dillinger, the simple Indiana farm boy who grew up to become one of Chicago's most famous outlaws. The film is brimming over with scintillating action set pieces which include daring prison breaks, gritty shoot-outs against grand backdrops (forests, streets, grasslands) and high-tension heists with Johnny Depp unleashing his charm on the teller with a sugary: Get me the money, honey.
In fact, Johnny Depp is the heart and soul of the film with his smooth and easy charm and his languid air. He brings to life a fedora-donning outlaw who loves his job and is even quite proud of it. `I rob banks', he openly declares and sweeps the sweet Ms Cottilard off her feet with his don't-give-a-damn attitude and his succinct self-introduction: `I love fast cars, golf, whiskey and you.' In fact, Marion Cottilard, a simple hatcheck girl is the only chink in his armour. Otherwise, there is nothing that can stop our unflappable gunman from leading the good life by ill-gotten means. Not even the dogged FBI agent Melvin Pervis (Christian Bale) who was determined to get Dillinger to the gallows. It's a nerve-wracking battle between the two, with the cop ending up as the loser, most of the times. He does manage to arrest the robber after a daring heist, but slipping out of prison's seems to be child's play for the man who fears nothing.
It is this fearlessness that works as a double edged sword for our anti-hero. On the one hand, it gives us one of the most memorable scenes in a gangster film where the most wanted criminal, Depp walks into the Chicago police headquarters, take a leisurely touristy trip down the rooms, smirks at his pictures on the walls and even asks for the Yankees' score after spotting a bunch of cops intently listening to the radio. Again, in another incident, he brazenly sits in his Buick in the street, while the cops arrest his girlfriend from the apartment in front and quiz her on his whereabouts. They fail to notice his presence, simply because they cannot believe he would be right there in the busiest part of the city. But it is this devil-may-care attitude that ends up as his undoing. For the cops try to close in as he enjoys a Clark Gable gangster flick in a crowded auditorium, minus all cover.
The film is a cinematic treat with its artistic canvas, its fine detailing and its towering portrayal of a real-life bandit by Johnny Depp, an actor who always manages to astound you with his kaleidoscopic skills.