I really had high hopes for this. High, I suppose because of Michael Mann (well certain Michael Mann films), high because of the subject material and Johnny Depp and Marion Cotillard (and to a lesser extent hoping that Christian Bale would drop the Batman voice).
The first thing that rattled me was Mann’s shooting everything digitally. It works fine for certain films, it worked fine for Collateral and very much so for Miami Vice, but here something more lush and classic is required to really do justice to the obviously wonderful set design. It gets in the way so much that at times you think you’re watching a student film, or some kind of improv rehearsal video.
The second problem is in a couple of the performances. Christian Bale is, at times, so two dimensional as to to be being played by a cardboard cutout of himself. At the other end of the scale you have the very talented Marion Cotillard in a role that appears and disappears for huge tracts of the film. She’s underwritten and deserves better. Depp, is, of course, shining, stylish and gets younger every bloody film. Hate him/love him.
I suppose though, the real problem here is expectation. I wanted this to be one of the films of the year and it’s only average. There were sections where I was bored with the repetition of a lot of the relatively simplistic cops and robbers stuff being played out and Dillinger’s story, while brought vividly to life by Depp, isn’t hugely thrilling and is the sort of thing we’ve seen dozens of times before.
Unfortunately, because of the setting, the time, the “good cop being brought in to clean up Chicago” routine, you end up comparing it to The Untouchables, and it’s no Untouchables. Overall, this is an iconic American story that just doesn’t have enough going on in it really to make it a great movie.
I swear I wasn’t cribbing from Kermode. I am obviously suitably thrilled that we feel the same way about it: