Thursday, July 9, 2009
"What keeps you up late at night, Mr. Dillinger?"
Eighty years ago you didn't have to jog. If you wanted to prove you were tough you didn't throw on some pre-ripped jeans, a tight, glittery "urban" t-shirt and five pounds of gel on your head. You wanted to be hard you slugged someone right in the kisser! You sucker punch them in the eye and steal their dame. Slapping a guy across the face wasn't considered 'faggy' because if a man's man eighty years ago slaps you, it fucking hurts!
Go and see Public Enemies and you'll realize why as a small child there was always a certain level of fear and respect at your grandpa's house. I don't care how "ghetto" or "street" teenagers pretend the burbs are, cruise by an old folks home and recognize that they grew up in the hard shit! (Never knock on Lawrence Welk's dressing room door during happy hour because he's probably sauced with Mickey Rooney and half a dozen of those sweet, 'innocent' lady dancers from his show.)
Notorious bad-ass Michael Mann co-wrote and directed the best new gangster picture since, I don't know, Chinatown I think. That's how good it is, I'm thinking back thirty years to find something comparable. Oh and L.A. Confidential, (not surprising that they shared a director of photography). It's the shaky, digital, docudrama style of shooting that Mann tried with Paul Cameron in 2004's collateral and perfected with veteran DP Dante Spinotti, (who worked with Mann on 95's Heat and 99's The Insider) that rose the originality of the look and overall wickedness level of the picture. It gave it a real depression-era-dry color palette with the dark, raw, gritty feel that gangster pics back in the day were notorious for and basically took that shit up a whole letter grade in my opinion.
Written from historical fact, the plot structure is very well put together. Seen from the two opposite sides of the law each of the main characters, Captain Jack Sparrow and Batman, have their stories intertwine tighter and tighter as they get closer to one another. Batman's sophisticated investigation techniques paired with a few violent ringers from the south, (to even the playing field against hardened killers) lead him closer to Sparrow. All the while Sparrow's desperation and loss of his gang, one by one, cause him to take on more dangerous jobs with more dangerous people and everything he does just starts to get fucked up. This goes with one of the running themes that perhaps the end doesn't justify the means as each man is inexplicably changed by the horrible things they're forced to do to try and succeed. (Although I'm told the killing of pretty boy floyd by Batman in the first act was sugar-coated from what actually happened, probably in an attempt to make the Feds not seem like complete assholes. If only they kill Channing Tatum that quickly in G.I. Joe, the summer might be saved.)
Neither of them are bad men at all but they're forced to do bad things out of necessity and more-so due to the decisions of men in higher positions of power. A great struggle during the depression was that lovable cross-dresser J.E. Hoover, under pressure from The Man in Washington, (as he tried to get the F.B.I. up and running) vs. the deplorable, very quiet, super mario-esque Frank Nitti and his whole mafia thingy that he was doing. We're not really sure what he was up to, the mustache was really distracting but just sooo dang cute! (Later on Hitler ruined facial hair for everyone.) Dillinger and Purvis are ultimately caught in the middle of these two bigger men's feud. And that just stinks!
So amongst this eternal battle between two smart, violent men who only meet like once, but have been paired by fate to be enemies there is a freaking onslaught of supporting characters. Is it so hard for actors to get work these days that they'll take whatever single line they can get? It's hard to get into a drama when every five minutes you're thinking, "oh crazy, it's the dude from Minas Tirith!" or "As if, Giovanni Ribi-whatever is going to pop up in another star-studded historical epic?" It was seriously one after another.
That wasn't terrible though and I'm certainly not saying it ruined the movie, (Stephen Graham as Baby-Face Nelson was the fucking shit). Four little words were the closest thing to having the movie ruined. Diana god-damned Krall! When she struts on camera for thirty of the most annoying seconds of my life I thought someone had switched reels to Harry and the Hendersons or and episode of Fox's Alien Nose Job. I mean she's a total man-lady. If they're calling it Public enemies they should have put her on the poster. That would have had the horror nerds out of their mom's basements in droves! Who's leg did Elvis have to hump to get her that gig, anyways?
So, the story was engaging and good, acting was good and Johnny Depp and Christian Bale managed to play two very excellent lead characters who weren't over-the-top drunk scissor-handed pirates or constantly yelling in deep, gravelly, Batman voices, which is always nice to see. The score was very large and cinematic and the soundtrack, other than Krall was really cool. (Someone's got a hard-on for Billie Holiday I think.) And the ridiculous hotness of Marion Cottilard is for sure, going to have to take an entirely new blog post cause that lady is an amazing actress and sexy as hell!
It's the right ingredients for the perfect tribute to a lost time when people could be badasses without needing pecs the size of the baked hams. Super tough. I'm pretty sure men back then didn't even have to invent modern exercising until that nut Hitler started prancing around Europe with his stupid little mustachio. So you brosef greaseballs can feel free to do all the push-ups and snort all the whey powder you want, I'm taking toughness back to the real old-school. With some Newsie-style brass knuckes and hard smack upside your head. Out.