In his best seller Public Enemies: America's Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933-34
, Bryan Burrough set out to dispel the gangster myths propagated by movies like Bonnie and Clyde
(1967) and Bloody Mama
(1970), and to “reclaim the War on Crime for the lawmen who fought it.” With this slam-bang action epic, director Michael Mann reclaims it yet again for dashing, mediagenic John Dillinger (Johnny Depp), stressing his cat-and-mouse relationship with starchy, Chicago-based G-man Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale). Mann excels at staging the chaotic bank jobs and bloody shootouts that were just a day at the office for Dillinger, but even at 140 minutes the movie is so dense with incident that there isn't much room for cultural comment or character development, aside from a rather hollow account of the gangster's romance with loyal gun moll Billie Frechette (Marion Cotillard).
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Though adapted from a zealously factual book, Public Enemies takes the usual liberties.