Rating:

* * *

Verdict:

Depp's rogue charm saves this ponderous shoot 'em up.

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Johnny Depp is John Dillinger. With the gangster's sly, lopsided smile down pat, he perfectly captures the suave-but-cocky folk hero with a strict code of ethics - a man infamous for robbing banks but never taking customers' money.

With an excellent cast and set in the rich visual landscape of Depression-era America,

Public Enemies

has all the makings of a modern classic, with one notable exception - its brooding, sluggish pace.

Director Michael Mann's penchant for long, lingering close ups, pregnant pauses and a near-obsession with historical minutiae, make the film feel every second of its 139 minutes.

Only Depp prevents the film sinking beneath its own weight. His performance is so stunning, the rest of the big-name cast is almost wasted as he absorbs the audience's full attention.

Tying two stories together - the love affair of Dillinger and coatcheck girl Billie Frechette (Cotillard) and the shoot 'em up history of Dillinger's bloody bank robbery spree - the film swings between moments of quiet contemplation and brutal violence.

When it comes, the violence is relentless and Mann's unconventional use of high definition video gives the film a chilling twist on the classic, grainy gangster flick. As bullets fly and blood splatters, even the most hardened film-goers will struggle not to flinch at the skin-piercing detail.

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Between these bursts of action are drawn-out scenes of scheming, detailing the cat and mouse game between the gangsters and the Bureau of Investigation, headed by Melvin Purvis (Bale).

Such scenes reveal much about the two nemeses - about their motivation and morals - and build a thick air of suspense. To cut them would be a disservice to the film, but some tighter editing could have made this explosive rather than interesting.

Joanna Hunkin