Public Enemies

DVD Rating: ****

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Read Jennie Kermode's film review of Public Enemies
Public Enemies

The sight of several featurettes on this two-disc edition may suggest that there is a lack of depth in the material here, but on the contrary, it is a very comprehensive package. The feature commentary is one of the best this year, with Michael Mann proving an adept, informative and entertaining guide. He seems to have an encyclopaedic knowledge of both John Dillinger and the time period and fleshes out details in the film, providing background for incidents and explaining those few occasions where he bent the truth slightly for cinematic expediency.

In fact, it would is more accurate to say that he combines different truths, rather than bending them, since it is evident Mann is a stickler when it comes to detail and did everything within his power to shoot the film in the actual locations where the events happened. You can hear the excitement in his voice as he reveals "that's Dillinger's bedstead" and it is obvious that he and the cast benefited from this sort of close proximity to the gangster's hideouts.

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Mann also talks a little about the casting of Johnny Depp - who, apparently, finds "deep currents of meaning" in characters - and Christian Bale and about the research that went into the film. But the commentary's strength is the breadth of history he covers, not just outlining the life of Dillinger himself, but also offering a keen sense of the 1930s and the Depression, including details of the prison system that he believes "made" Dillinger into the criminal he was.

The featurettes offer more of the same, which is no bad thing, and are bolstered by a surprising amount of archive footage, including film of Dillinger himself. Larger Than Life: Adversaries, runs at 10 minutes and explores the relationship between Purvis and Dillinger. In addition to interesting observations from Depp and Bale - such as the fact Dillinger was born just 70 miles from where Depp was - there is aso a contribution from Purvis's son.

Michael Mann: Making Public Enemies is the longest of the featurettes and focuses on Mann's technique and reasons for making the film. He talks about the fact that he believes Dillinger had "no sense of future", while the cast and crew offer their perspectives on Mann's direction, all of them praising his "insistence on realism".

On Dillinger's Trail: The Real Locations, takes us on a 10-minute tour of the gangster's haunts and, although containing some repetition, is also well worth a watch. Again, Mann's insistence on realism is greatly in evidence. "He will not build a set," says one of his crew, explaining how they came to shoot in the actual cell block that Dillinger broke out of.

Rounding out the featurettes is Criminal Technology, a fascinating look at the 'tools' the gangsters had at their disposal and why their guns and cars were far superior to law enforcement at that time.

As regards the technical aspects of the disc, the look - with its DV that was much-maligned when the film was shown on the big screen - is still not that great, but the flaws are less obvious on a small screen. The sound balance is also not as good as it could be, with the background music frequently overpowering the dialogue, although this may have been down to the review discs I watched, which were not the finished product. The film and all the extras, including the commentary track, are excellently subtitled.

All in all a fine example of a double DVD package that delivers on its promise.

Reviewed on: 04 Nov 2009
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Public Enemies packshot
The FBI is charged with hunting down Public Enemy No. 1: John Dillinger.
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Product Code: 8271327

Region: 2

Ratio: 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen

Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1

Extras: Commentary with Michael Mann, Larger Than Life: Adversaries, Michael Mann: Making Public Enemies, Last Of The Legendary Outlaws, On Dillinger's Trail: The Real Locations, Criminal Technology

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