Who's In It: Johnny Depp, Christian Bale, Marion Cotillard, Billy Crudup
John Dillinger, for all you kids who don't know about anything that happened before you were born, was this bank robber in the 1930s who became a celebrity for his crimes, his style and his audacity. It was a pretty short burst of fame, as most of his most memorable robberies happened in the span of about a year, right before he was gunned down by the FBI while walking out of a movie theater. And this is director Michael Mann's machine-gun-porn version of events.
What's The Deal: Mann loves crime. He loves the physical act of it, the men who commit it, the other men trying to catch the men who commit it. You can see this in every law-and-order movie he makes and specifically in all the incredibly pretty and fetishy details on display here. Pretty much the moment you witness a bank robber leaping over a marble counter in slow motion, his long coat flying around him like a cape, you know you're not watching anything that's going to resemble actual mundane historical events. This is swooning male anti-hero worship.
Why The Swooning Male Anti-Hero Worship Approach Is Awesome: It's like when you watch an exotic animal documentary show on The Discovery Channel. You'll never be in the vicinity of that neon-colored sea creature with the poison stinger, but you want to get as close to it as you can anyway because it's fascinating to look at. And I will probably never rob a bank with an automatic weapon, but I like it when other people do it with shiny guns for my enjoyment. And I especially like it when it's beautifully and elegantly shot, as if each frame of film were going to wind up in a museum somewhere.
The Limitations Of The Swooning Male Anti-Hero Worship Approach: Mann forgot to include a story that I could care about. I know how Dillinger died already, so that wasn't going to be much of a surprise there. It would have been nice if there'd been a sense of urgency or suspense around any of the crimes committed. As it is, the most hold-your-breath scenes involve listening to French Academy Award winner Marion Cotillard throwing herself into English or the ones where Dilllinger walks unnoticed through a police station's Dillinger task force office. Did this really happen? Was he some kind of wizard with an invisibility cloak? Are we entering the crazy portion of the Mann crime fantasy? It's never explained. But when a casual gunless stroll is the most nail-biting moment of a crime movie, there's something wrong.
Blink And You'll Miss: Christian Bale. He's the co-star but has much less screentime than Depp and doesn't make much of an impression. He's just all serious face and gunplay. Not much else. Oh and Lili Taylor, David Wenham, Stephen Dorff, Channing Tatum, Rory Cochrane, Emilie de Ravin, Giovanni Ribisi, Diana Krall, Shawn Hatosy and Leelee Sobiesky are all in this briefly, as well.