My second summer movie was the darkly delicious PUBLIC ENEMIES. The film was almost ruined for me by a confusing beginning with shaky and dizzy-making cameras and barely audible dialogue. Michael Mann's style, I have read, is the new face of film-making, and there is much about this film that is undeniably beautiful. However, the close-ups were so laughably close that it made the cameraman seem obsessed with human pores.
What saves the movie, what gives it its energy, is the charm of Johnny Depp and the cool mystery of Christian Bale, and the intensity of the battle between them. A surprisingly great performance by Billy Crudup as a fussy and uptight J. Edgar Hoover gives the movie added authenticity. While I'm not a fan of gun violence, the battles between bank robbers and Feds in this flick are simply spectacular. In one particular scene deep in the Wisconsin forest, the gunfire is as loud and long as a fireworks display, and the surreal backdrop of dark and silent trees to human blood and conflict is one of the more memorable movie moments in my recent history.
Since the movie tells the story of John Dillinger and his eventual demise, it is not a happy story, but it has stayed in my mind long afterward, and for this reason I would say that Mann has been most successful.
Photo link here.