Gangsters and feds slug it out during the 1930s in Public Enemies, the latest crime flick from director Michael Mann. This movie is a clash of personalities -- but something is missing from the movie.

It's the Great Depression and bank robber John Dillinger (Johnny Depp) is America's most famous and infamous criminal. Dillinger robs banks and blasts away with his machine gun -- yet he doesn't steal from individuals and proves amusing and charming even while committing crimes.

Naturally, the bad guys have to be pursued by the good guys. J.. Edgar Hoover (Billy Crudup) wants publicity and funding for his Bureau of Investigation, and he sees getting Dillinger as the key to both. His pick to lead the pursuit of Dillinger is Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale), who made headlines for killing Pretty Boy Floyd (Channing Tatum). The supporting cast includes Billie (Marion Cotillard) as Dillinger's love, a coat check girl who is as excited by Dillinger's lifestyle as she is aware that he'll wind up in jail or in the ground; and Baby Face Nelson (Stephen Graham), a mobster who seems to enjoy killing.

Public Enemies misses a great chance to contrast its too leads. We learn much about Dillinger -- that he has a code of honor while also ruthless and self-serving -- but Purvis remains almost a mystery. Did the fed hate Dillinger, respect him, have qualms about the wiretape and brutal interrogations, or have his own ambitions? Bale plays Purvis as almost stoic and efficient, with little revealed beyond his duty.

Public Enemies is still an intriguing movie of crime and law enforcement. Depp's performance doesn't glamorize the criminal yet makes us able to see why he was so popular. The setting of the Great Depression also reveals why people would admire a criminal who went out and took what he wanted -- even if that was outside the law. And unlike many other movies, this shows the blood and guts of guns and violence, not neat, inoffensive little bullet holes. Public Enemies is far from perfect, but it is an entertaining diversion.

Overall grade: B-
Reviewed by James Lynch

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