I’m no fan of action movies in general. Transformers, 300, Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. For the most part, action of the big boom variety, or the car chase variety, or even the crazy martial arts variety (although it can make for exciting moments, provided the film has enough meat to carry it, i.e. The Matrix). I don’t think Michael Mann’s Public Enemies really qualifies as an action movie by today’s standards. There are no giant explosions, no unrealistic feats of physical dexterity or strength, just good ol’ fashion I-shoot-you, you-shoot-me, waste-hundreds-of-rounds-on-the-area-around-you, you-fall-down-eventually. And I loved every minute of it.
Back in the 70s, they knew how to make action movies. The budgets were low, the guns were blazing, the blood was cherry red, and they filmed car chases on busy roads without first closing off the street. The bottom line is, without CGI and bottomless Hollywood budgets, action movies just felt real back in those days. The only recent films that come close to that kind of down-and-dirty, dare I say, pulp action are the Bourne films, and Public Enemies.
I really want to talk about the rest of the film, about how Johnny Depp took on the role of John Dillinger, Public Enemy Number One, with the air not of a slick, cool, in-control conman, but a man who acts like that on the outside, but inside just feels like a kid in a candy store, and when that part of his character comes out, it makes for the most rewarding parts of the movie. I want to talk about Marion Cotillard’s Billie Frechette, and how she plays the love interest as an actual character, and does a damn good job at that. I want to talk about Christian Bale’s reprisal of Batman, sans cape, intellect, and depth of character. But, really, what sticks in my mind are the countless shootouts, the oh-so-satisfying “rat-a-tat-tat” of the Tommy guns, and the crystal clear view my brand new glasses gave me.
So, in conclusion: Hollywood, less explosions, more small arms fire. Thank you.