Saturday, July 4, 2009


Crime drama

Johnny Depp: bank robber John Dillinger
Marion Cotillard: coat-check girl Billie Frechette
Christian Bale: F.B.I. agent Melvin Purvis
Billy Crudup: J. Edgar Hoover, F.B.I. Director
Stephen Graham: rival gangster Baby Face Nelson
Branka Katic: Anna Sage, “The Lady in Red”

Dillinger’s life was one of robbing banks, shooting it out with the police, spending time in jail, escaping from jail and repeating the process. So this is what we get to see for 2 hours and 20 minutes as it covers the last year or so of one of the most infamous criminals in the United States (the F.B.I.’s first Public Enemy number 1).

But apart from being repetitive, the major shortcoming is the failure to tell us anything about the man. I’m not suggesting a complete biography but 4 or 5 minutes of flashback would allow us to better understand why he turned to crime and the reason for his popularity, why he became a working-class hero (answer: his gang never took people's money, only the bank's money).

Not unexpectedly there are lots of criminals but the line is too often blurred as to their relationship with Dillinger: rival? associate? friend? Keeping it all sorted out is not made any easier by sub plots that go nowhere: case in point Dillinger meets with the Chicago crime boss who says he’s bad for business and the mob will no longer assist him. But then nothing is made of this so why include it at all?

Unlike most movies of this sort, there is a surprising lack of tension with the emphasis on the relationship between Dillinger and Frechette.

One thing that must be said though: the film looks good with great detail to recreating that period. Too bad they did not put in as much time and effort to edit it more stringently and provide some background narrative.

for gangster violence and some language.

• An opening title indicates the year to be 1933. As Dillinger enters a bank, prominent on a teller’s window is the logo of the FDIC which indicates the bank is a member of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. This U.S. government agency to protect individuals from losing their deposits only came into effect in January 1934.
• When Dillinger first meets Agent Purvis he refers to him as “the man who killed Pretty Boy Floyd” which is true but that did not happen until October 1934, three months after his own death in July of that year.
• While stopped at a red light Dillinger sees 3 soldiers standing on the corner. In the crane shot of the car waiting until the light turns green they are gone but when the camera angle returns to inside the car they magically reappear.
• While getting ready to go to the movies Dillinger checks his pocket watch. The time is 5:00 but in the closeup about a second later it is now 6:30.

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