From: JIM DOHERTY (jimdohertyjr@yahoo.com)
Date: 29 Jul 2009

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    Without commenting on whether it's hard-boiled, or noir, or both, or neither, I think most Rare Birds will enjoy the new film PUBLIC ENEMIES, based on Bryan Burroughs's non-fiction account of the FBI's Depression-era "War on Crime." Suffice it to say that, whatever it is, I think it's an appropriate subject for this list, which should be all a subject should need to be in order for any individual member to introduce it as a topic.

    The rise of gangsterism in the '20's and '30's that was, after all, one of the elements that led to the development of hard-boiled and/or noir crime fiction. And this dramatized film gives a compelling portrait of many of the real-life figures who inspired many of the villains created by the likes of Hammett, Chandler, and their desciples.

    Highly fictionalized (like 1973's DILLINGER, about the same subject), it's nevertheless hugely entertaining. Johnny Depp plays Dillinger, and damned well. Christian Bale plays Dillinger's FBI nemesis, Mel Purvis. Bale, already a filmic crimefighter thanks to the current BATMAN movies. Bale gives a performance that led me to think he might be a pretty decent Dick Tracy if another Tracy film is ever attempted, not altogether inappropriate since , inarguably the most famous hard-boiled detective of them all, was one of the main inspirations for Batman, whom Bob Kane cheerfully admitted was basically Tracy in super-hero drag.

    The film PUBLIC ENEMIES is, in at least one sense, not really a film at all. It was shot in hi-def video, then transferred to film for theatrical release. I'm not really sure of how this is done. Several films have been shot this way, but PUBLIC ENEMIES is the first I've ever seen. It really makes the texture of the images on-screen very different. You can almost count the pores on an actor's complexion, or the stubbles of whisker on his chin. At times the clarity of the image almost drew my attention away from the story.

    For those of you who might be interested in seeing a dramatized depiction of the real-life figures who inspired helped midwife the hard-boiled form, PUBLIC ENEMIES is highly recommended.



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