I saw this film on opening night after months of expectation. Michael Mann, Dillinger bio-pic, Johnny Depp and other great actors, what’s not to love. Two hours and twenty mins later I feel like I got off a ride I should have liked but it went backwards instead changing what I was expecting and hoping for. And not in a good way. After seeing it on the screen, buying the DVD and watching several times, buying the blue ray and watching it several times I “still” am unsure of what I don’t like about it. Other disgruntled viewers are more clear on why they disliked or downright hated the film. As I’m watching it, it has great performances, great locations; some authentic like Little Bohemia Lodge, great photography, great action sequences shot in the usual Michael Mann attention to detail... but let’s back up to the photography point. I think this is the problem. I ‘think’...still not 100% sure. Mann is so hell bent on making it authentic, as with all his films, which is great but by doing so it does not link one to the “myth” of Dillinger. It seems one cannot be done without sacrificing the other in this film. If one is not well read on the Dillinger and gangster era of the 1930’s then the film may well work splendidly, but if on the other hand, like mine, you are well versed in that era then the up close and personal handheld type of photography done in the film may not work. Even when is “should”. What this film brings with it, a rich and very realistic setting that one expects to see outside the movie theatre, does not capture the “myth” and far away nostalgia that that far gone gunslinger wild-west era seemingly is used to being seen as. Maybe, maybe not. I’m still not sure. Something is not working here.
For all its historical accuracy, well as much as a dramatic film can be unlike a straight documentary, I still prefer the 1973 John Milius “historically inaccurate” film much better. It is a "low budget" film and made by the golden boys of Indie drive-in exploitation at the time, American International, but Milius' deft hand lifts the film to mythic levels to how ordinary people in the “dirty-30’s” regarded Dillinger, a Robin Hood figure robbing the much hated banks and leaving the FBI in the dust. This is a fable and Dillinger is an anti-hero... AND it works on that level. Unlike the Mann film which when all is said and done leaves one with an unsatisfied feeling.