The Poetry of Crime
Michael Mann’s “Public Enemies”
is a ravishing dream
of violent gangster life in the thirties—
not a tough, funny, and, finally, tragic dream
like “Bonnie and Clyde”
but a flowing, velvety fantasia of the crime wave
that mesmerized the nation early in the decade.
The scowling men in long dark coats and hats,
led by the fashion-plate bandit John Dillinger (Johnny Depp),
march into a grand Midwestern bank
with marble floors and brass railings,
take over the place,
throw the cash in bags,
and make their getaway,
jumping onto the sideboards of flat-topped black Fords—
beautiful cars with curved grilles and rounded headlights
that stand straight up from the cars’ bodies.
It’s the American poetry of crime.