From Thief, Manhunter, Ali and Heat to The Last of the Mohicans and The Insider, as well as Collateral and Miami Vice, his lasting dramas have brought to the screen a series of tough, iconic figures embodied by the most commanding actors of our time.
Now, in his most ambitious and timely project to date, the seminal gangster saga Public Enemies, Michael Mann directs one of our most gifted contemporary actors (Johnny Depp of Pirates of the Caribbean series, Sweeney Todd) in the story of the fast and dangerous life of John Dillinger.
In the film, Mann teams with Depp to examine the man whose criminal exploits captivated a nation besieged by financial hardship and ready to celebrate a mythic figure who robbed the banks that had impoverished them and outsmarted the authorities who had failed to remedy their hard times, who inspired the first nationwide war on crime, who led a band of accomplished armed robbers on a cascade of dazzling heists and improbable breakouts, and whose dashing manner and charisma entranced not only a special woman but an entire country: legendary Depression-era outlaw John Dillinger.
For the epic action-thriller, Mann directs Depp, Christian Bale (The Dark Knight, Terminator Salvation) and Academy Award winner Marion Cotillard (La Vie en Rose, A Good Year) in the story of Dillinger, whose well-choreographed bank robberies made him the number-one target of J. Edgar Hoover's (Billy Crudup of Watchmen, The Good Shepherd) fledgling FBI and its top agent, Melvin Purvis (Bale).
No one could stop Dillinger and his gang. No jail could hold him. His charm and audacious jailbreaks endeared him to almost everyone-from his girlfriend Billie Frechette (Cotillard) to Americans who were looking for a symbol to divert them from their everyday hardships. They found it in the man who took from the banks the monies they felt the banks had wrongly taken from them.
But while the adventures of Dillinger's gang-later including the sociopathic Baby Face Nelson (Stephen Graham of Gangs of New York, Snatch) and robber / kidnapper Alvin Karpis (Giovanni Ribisi of Cold Mountain, Lost in Translation)-thrilled many, Hoover planned to exploit the outlaw's capture as a way to elevate his Bureau of Investigation into the national police force that became the FBI. He made Dillinger America's first Public Enemy Number One and sent in Purvis, the dashing “Clark Gable of the FBI,” to snare him.
However, Dillinger and his gang outwitted and outgunned Purvis' men in wild chases and shootouts. Only after importing a crew of lawmen from the Dallas bureau and orchestrating epic betrayals-from the infamous “Lady in Red” (Branka Katic of Big Love, The Englishman) to Chicago crime boss Frank Nitti (Bill Camp of Reservation Road, Deception)-were Purvis, the FBI and their new crew of gunfighters able to close in on their prey.
Drawn back to the very city where his obsession with both Frechette and bank robbing began, Dillinger, for once and for all, ended this pursuit by Purvis. And when all was said and done, the entire country learned that with the death of one of its heroes came the birth of a legend.
Completing the principal cast are a talented group of seasoned actors and up-and-coming performers, including Jason Clarke (Death Race, Rabbit-Proof Fence) as Dillinger ally John “Red” Hamilton; Rory Cochrane (Hart's War, A Scanner Darkly) as Purvis' good friend and fellow agent Carter Baum; Stephen Dorff (World Trade Center, Cold Creek Manor) as Dillinger gang member and unemotional killer Homer Van Meter; Stephen Lang (Gods and Generals, Fire Down Below) as Special Agent Charles Winstead; John Ortiz (Fast & Furious, Miami Vice) as high-level crime lord Phil D'Andrea; and David Wenham (300, The Lord of the Rings franchise) as the authority-hating Dillinger gang member Harry “Pete” Pierpont.