Wednesday, July 8, 2009

"Public Enemies" Showcases Chicago

I usually wait until feature films are available on DVD before watching them, but with "Public Enemies," I made an exception and saw this new release in a theater last week. My eagerness stemmed from two interests: Chicago history in general and the life and times of John Dillinger in particular. This bank robber/desperado was dubbed "Public Enemy No. 1" by the FBI in the 1930s.

In two of my "Snap" Malek Chicago historical mystery novels, "Three Strikes You're Dead" and the recently released "A President in Peril," I made references to Dillinger. In one instance, I had Chicago Tribune police reporter Malek reminisce about covering the shooting of the legendary gangster outside a Chicago movie theater in the summer of 1934.

I found the film good--by no means great, but definitely compelling. The acting was solid, particularly the machine-gun toting Johnny Depp as America's most-wanted man. Also, I'm a pushover for movies shot in Chicago, and there was a healthy dose of the city here, including Elevated trains roaring through the night, an Art Deco office building lobby masquerading as a restaurant, and a decades-old steam locomotive chugging into the subterranean gloom of Union Station. And the film-makers were able to use the actual theater where Dillinger met his fate, the Biograph, in the drama's climactic scene.

Call it film noir, Chicago-style.

Robert Goldsborough

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