Wednesday, July 15, 2009

"Public Enemies"

We saw a movie, "Public Enemies," last weekend that I want to encourage people to see. Most critics seem to think the movie fails in some way. As far as I can tell, they want it to tell more of the story of the 1920s and all about the gangster scene in Chicago and on and on: in other words they want a documentary. I have news for them. If this were a documentary, no one would pay to see it.

I should admit at the beginning that I've been a Johnny Depp fan for many years, ever since he was a young star of the TV show "21 Jump Street." I think he's one of the best actors in the business. He's a chameleon who can have fun playing an outrageous character like Capt. Sparrow in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies and then absolutely nail a character like the 1920s Chicago gangster John Dillinger.

I was born and raised in central Illinois and although I was born long after Dillinger was killed coming out of the Biograph Theater in Chicago, everyone knew a lot about him when I was a kid. There was an abandoned old house just off Route 66 south of Springfield, in fact, that was pointed out to everyone as having been one of Dillinger's hideouts. Now I wonder if that was true, but it was certainly common knowledge in the 40s and 50s.

People were fascinated by Dillinger - his wisecracking, his cocky grin, the fact that he robbed banks but let the customers keep their own money, his frank enjoyment of the life he led. In the movie they show crowds of people lining the street to see Dillinger being taken in by the police and that rings very true. He was a celebrity in Illinois.

This movie about the end of Dillinger's life is really worth seeing, despite what the critics say. And Johnny Depp is terrific as usual.

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