By Jonathan D. Smalls, Film Critic
Some movie goers argue that modern films pale in comparison to the performances of years past. There is some merit to that argument.
The quality of the story telling seems to have deteriorated with the advent of explosions andother techical stuff. The story of John Dillinger, however, warrants another retelling in film. The 1973 film, Dillinger, lacked an intimacy and pacing, which the new film in theaters July 1, Public Enemies, brings to the silver screen.
Famed personalities from all corners of the performing world appear as supporting actors and cameos as a testament to the quality of this film. Big or small, every one wants to put their name on it and with good reason. Their talents are cumulative and their contributions come together for a richer performance, featuring familiar faces like Channing Tatum and Steven Dorff to thespians who frequent the States less often like Stephen Graham and Marion Cotillard. There is no weak link in this chain of actors. This casting is more like a team than a loose association of self serving talents: each member contributes appropriately to the greater good of the final product.
The film ultimately climaxes on the well documented end to the days of John Dillinger as an outlaw with an emotional, final scene. Here is a spoiler alert: your heart will go out to “my Johnny” after witnessing his scene with Manhattan Melodrama.
The facts are undisputed, so the story arc of the two films is substantially the same. The difference lies with Bryan Burroughs and his new book of the same name. Adapted for the screen and directed by Michael Mann his interpretation smooths the narration and humanizes the characters in a manner not seen before. The story is split between the pressures on the nascent FBI as it struggled to prove its worth as a law enforcement agency and the sensational life of mobsters, fast cars and violence. The dialogue and interaction is rich and believable, giving a star studded cast plenty of material to work with and grow into.
Dillinger has been produced and filmed twice before, once in 1945 and once in 1973. With Public Enemies however the legend of John Dillinger finally has the flow, timelessness and believability which may make this the last time for all of time.