Public Enemies

Rated 4.0

Michael Mann’s latest is a kind of gangster movie fantasia—a lavishly stylized mixture of violent crime pic and historical romance. Johnny Depp’s rendition of John Dillinger, erstwhile “Public Enemy No. 1,” provides the predominant figure in this darkly romantic outlaw ballad. But Public Enemies is at least partly based on Bryan Burrough’s nonfiction account of the national cops-and-robbers fireworks played out in the Great Depression of the 1930s, and so it also makes a pass at multicharacter drama via Dillinger’s contemporaries among crime fighters (J. Edgar Hoover and Melvin Purvis in particular) and storied outlaws (Pretty Boy Floyd, Baby Face Nelson, etc.). Christian Bale plays the Purvis role with an admirably understated intensity, and for a while it looks as though Purvis’ story will share equal screen time with Dillinger’s. But the late emerging centrality of Dillinger’s fiercely loyal girlfriend Billie Frechette (Marion Cotillard) eventually tips that apparent balance in Dillinger’s direction. Mann’s movie is of course mostly bang-bang and not much kiss-kiss, but the means by which it gives Cotillard’s Frechette the final emotional say may be its most distinctive and original move. Feather River Cinemas, Paradise Cinema 7 and Tinseltown. Rated R