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“Public Enemies” {Blu-ray} - (Wayne)
Wayne Klein
Studio: Universal Home Video
Release Date:
Special Features:



Michael Mann’s fascination with criminals and those that pursue them is our gift. The result are marvelous films like “Heat”, “Thief”, “Collateral” (we won’t talk about “Miami Vice” a rare misstep for Mann). “Public Enemies” continues the visual style and language of those films. What surprises me was the negative reaction to a marvelous period piece that echoes the themes of all of Mann’s other films and extends his and our understanding of the flipping coin that represents the law and the criminals who try and flaunt it. Mann’s approach to the film gives it a vibrancy and immediacy missing from most period pieces because he shoots much of the film with handheld cameras in a quasi documentary style that surprisingly fits the film like a well tailored suit. The contrast between style and content keeps gives the film an electric quality. ***

More importantly Mann has the material to support the cavalcade of terrific actors in the film from stars Johnny Depp, Christian Bale and Billy Crudup as Dillinger, G-Man Melvin Purvis and the head of the FBI J. Edgar Hoover respectively. Based on the non-fiction book focusing on the biggest criminals of the Great Depression Public Enemies: America’s Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI by Bryan Burrough, Mann retools “Public Enemies” to focus on the most colorful of the bank robbers and the man Melvin Purvis that pursued him. In the heart of the depression Dillinger became something of a hero to the common man as he stood up to the banks that were repossessing farms while America had people in soup lines (sounds somewhat like today doesn’t it?). ---

Image & Sound: “Public Enemies” looks quite good on Blu-ray with a sharp, detailed transfer that allows the deep, dark images to resonate on screen. Some of the action shots with rapidly moving cameras or swish pans blur together at times but overall the image quality remains sharp, detailed and colorful. Edge enhancement crops up now and again making this a less than perfect transfer but one that improves on the DVD. ***

Audio sounds exceptional with a rich detailed presentation actively using the 5.1 soundscape extremely well. ---

Special Features:

Michael Mann gives us a great commentary track filled with trivia focusing on material from excised from the film, trivia about the time, background research that shows up only a moment on screen. ***

“Larger Than Life: Adversaries” focuses on the two main characters that were the focus of both the book and (more so for) the movie Purvis and Dillinger. Purvis’ son also gives us his thoughts and observations about his dad and what he shared about the time. ***

“Michael Mann: Making ‘Public Enemies’” is presented in HD and gives us plenty of behind-the-scenes footage on the making of the film. ***

“Last of the Legendary Outlaws” and “Dillinger’s Trail: The Real Locations” tells us about the historical Dillinger giving us perspective on the real man while the latter takes us through the steps of recreating the locations and showing us how the crew transformed many of the real locations to their original state for the film. ***

“Criminal Technology” focuses on the advantages that the criminals had at the time over law enforcement and the lack of communication between states allowing criminals to cross state lines and not be pursued. ***

“Gangster Movie Challenge” is a trivia game focusing on a variety of Universal released gangster flicks. We also have BD-Live capability as part of the set. ---

Final Words:

Michael Mann’s “Public Enemies” received mixed critical reviews but that doesn’t reflect on the of the film; although “Public Enemies” might be a bit bloated and could have been trimmed a bit, it’s quality still a terrific movie from a director that clearly delights in making morally complex dramas about criminals, law enforcement and the people that wear those “hats” playing either villains or heroes. Recommended.


Copyright @ Teakwood Productions 2000
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