The difficult 1930s is a time of robbers who knock over banks and other rich targets with alarming frequency. Of them, none is more notorious than John Dillinger, whose gang plies its trade with cunning efficiency against big businesses while leaving ordinary citizens alone. As Dillinger becomes a folk hero, FBI head J. Edger Hoover is determined to stop his ilk by assigning ace agent Melvin Purvis to hunt down Dillinger. As Purvis struggles with the manhunt's realities, Dillinger himself faces an ominous future with the loss of friends, dwindling options and a changing world of organized crime with no room for him.Written by
Kenneth Chisholm (email@example.com)
Though the song "Bye, Bye, Blackbird" was written in the 1920s and therefore existed during John Dillinger's lifetime, Diana Krall 's performance and the instrumental arrangement behind her are in the style of the 1950s. See more »
Who was John Dillinger? We all know he was a flamboyant criminal who robbed banks, but who WAS he? The question of who Dillinger WAS is far more interesting than the question of what Dillinger DID, but this film, sadly, chose only to concentrate seriously on the latter and gave up almost immediately on the former.
This film goes out of its way--with a poor grasp of history's time-line, by the way--to show us what Dillinger did and who he hung around with, but it does next to nothing to explore who Dillinger was as a person or even as a criminal. It hints that Dillinger might be a passionate lover and loyal friend, but shows us little evidence aside from a few thrown-together seduction scenes (which make his girlfriend/heroine look like a dim-witted pushover) and an awkward love scene.
Even Dillinger's foil, Melvin Purvis, is a mystery in Mann's hands. Did he care about justice at all, or was he just a fascist on a personal crusade? Was he competent in the least or was he just a bumbling idiot? Squinty-eyed stares can only convey so much, after all.
Michael Mann seems to be in a terrible hurry to tell this story, as he is stuck between the rock of having to relate a relatively complete "crime-ography" of a notorious American gangster and the hard place of keeping the movie shorter than 2 1/2 hours.
As a result, a beautifully shot and edited movie that had a lot of promise ends up little more than a dumb, shoot-'em-up action movie wearing the fedora of "historical romance." Good for a date, but not a serious film.
Grade: C+. Things to look for: Mann's ham-handed and laughably obvious political commentary on the use of torture about 2/3 of the way through the movie; psychotically trigger-happy Baby Face Nelson well-played by Stephen Graham; cool old products (Zenth radio); great fashion sense.
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