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Could 'Public Enemies' be on Oscars' hit list?

July 1, 2009 |  9:38 am

"Public Enemies" opened today to divided reviews but may have enough fans among film critics to still be in the mix of movies cited at year's end. The pedigree of talent behind "Public Enemies" is certainly first-rate. And biopics have long been a favorite of the various groups that fete filmmakers.

Johnny Depp Marion Cotillard Public Enemies Christian Bale Michael Mann Oscars movie news 1357986 Johnny Depp, who portrays '30s gangster John Dillinger, has picked up three Oscar nods in the last six years – "Pirates of the Caribbean," "Finding Neverland" and "Sweeney Todd."  Marion Cotillard, who plays the gangster's moll, was an Oscar winner two years ago for "La Vie en Rose." Christian Bale, who plays the FBI agent in pursuit, is an A-list star who mixes commercial smashes ("The Dark Knight") with critical hits ("I'm Not There"). And writer-director Michael Mann has four Oscar nods under his belt – three for writing, directing and producing "The Insider" and another for producing "The Aviator."

Manohla Dargis of the New York Times described the film as, "a grave and beautiful work of art. Shot in high-definition digital by a filmmaker who’s helping change the way movies look, it revisits with meticulous detail and convulsions of violence a short, frantic period in the life and bank-robbing times of John Dillinger, an Indiana farm boy turned Depression outlaw, played by a low-voltage Johnny Depp." For Dargis, "Much of what makes the movie pleasurable is the vigor with which it restages our familiar romance with period criminals, a perennial affair. But what also makes it more than the sum of its spectacular shootouts is the ambivalence about this romance that seeps into the filmmaking, steadily darkening the skies and draining the story of easy thrills."

Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times said, "Mann often wants to do traditional films but do them differently, do them better, enabling the audience to feel both the newness and the tradition. With 'Public Enemies,' he has made an impressive film of great formal skill, one that inescapably has a brooding dark-night-of-the-soul quality about it." And Turan lauds the leading man noting that, "A restrained performance like that only succeeds when it's given by an actor as intrinsically charismatic as Depp. His Dillinger can be as ruthless as the next guy and handy with a submachine gun when his bank robbery spree demands it, but what we end up admiring are his nerve, his style, his long gabardine overcoats (reminiscent of the long dusters worn by those other Midwestern movie outlaws, the James gang) and his hip, round sunglasses. This is star power acting with magnetism to spare."

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times thought, "This Johnny Depp performance is something else. For once an actor playing a gangster does not seem to base his performance on movies he has seen. He starts cold. He plays Dillinger as a Fact." And Claudia Puig of USA Today said, "Director Michael Mann mounts a technically proficient, visually enthralling crime drama anchored by the low-key but captivating performance of Johnny Depp as legendary bank robber John Dillinger."

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Photo: Universal Pictures

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