Director Michael Mann’s latest work, Public Enemies, serves as another relevant addition to the crime noir genre that he has so masterfully inhabited over the past twenty-five years.  Set in 1933, during the Great Depression, it chronicles the height of organized crime in Chicago and the government’s reaction to its ever-growing sophistication.  John Dillinger, Public Enemy Number One, played by a typically outstanding Johnny Depp, who over the years has been razor-sharp in his depictions of real-life people, is now being hunted down by Melvis Purvis (Christian Bale) and a group of newly energized FBI crime-fighters, led by the head of the bureau, J. Edgar Hoover (Billy Crudup).  Hoover is on a mission to win back the respect of a country who has seen his agency exposed and humiliated by its criminals.Mann and his longtime Director of Photography, Dante Spinotti create a misty realism that is reminiscient of earlier works Collateral, and Heat. With the aid of high definition camera footage, the night is captured with stunning precision, a good example being the FBI’s bust on Baby Face Nelson’s hideout in Little Bohemia.   When we first see Purvis, he is chasing down Pretty Boy Floyd (Channing Tatum) on foot through a forest filled with brilliant colours highlighted by the green of the grass and leaves.  Accompanying the visuals is Otis Miller’s “10 Million Slaves” with its calmly persistent bango rift and raspy vocals is the perfect piece to synchronize with what’s going on in the scene.  Mann has brought on Elliot Goldenthal to conduct the musical score as he did in Heat, and provides a palpable pulse to the story.  The combination of cinematography and music create the type of atmosphere in this scene that continues throughout the film, a characteristic that is vintage Mann.The directing is superb, the script is fair, and the acting is passable.  Had the script been stronger, allowed for us to become engaged in the characters a little more, the movie had a chance to be spectacular.  However, like in Ali, Mann’s latest biopic has focused too much on acting performances that force the audience to interpret nuance that on the surface is too cryptic.  We do not care enough about the characters for us to become thoroughly engaged in what they are going through.  Purvis and Hoover, played by Bale and Crudup respectively, seem to be too focused on mimicking the controlled mannerisms of the TV footage of the two rather than showing much real emotion and depth.  Without giving out details, in the end scene Charles Winstead, Purvis’ right-hand man played very effectively by Stephen Lang–who had been reduced to a war-mongering caricature in 2009’s more successful Avatar–has Purvis ask him a question. Winstead replies, “I couldn’t hear anything.”  Purvis isn’t quite sure if he believes Winstead as there has been a subtle tension mounting between the two throughout the film.  Winstead appears as the more astute manhunter and seems to know it even though Purvis is ostensibly the leader of the crew.  In this scene, Lang and Bale are effective at letting us know what is going on through subtle expressions, the type of acting that appears too difficult to interpret throughout most the rest of the film.On the other hand, the chemistry between Dillinger’s love interest Billie Frechette (Marion Cotillard) is magnetic. Their performances in the scenes they are in together elevate the dialogue to create a quietly intense relationship that thrives on danger and uncertainty.   Originally Billie is not so interested in going from a humble existence to one of criminal celebrity, but the unorthodox courting tactics of Dillinger are so directly honest and done with so much confidence that she is allured into his world.  Cotillard and Depp prove in these encounters why they are too of the best.Like in Mann’s signature, Heat, his master criminal inspires pathos.  Even though what Dillinger has done is bad, robbing banks, it is done with flair and during a time when most people could sympathize with a man trying to make a buck, especially at the hands of a bank.  Financial institutions were not particularly liked during this period.   He isn’t committing murders and seems to believe there is some honour in what he does.  Contrast the more likeable Dillinger with the uptight, seemingly emotionless Purvis and Hoover, and it is easy to side with the criminal.Dillinger and Heat’s antagonist Neil McCauley (Robert DeNiro) are both highly sophisticated thieves who are so adept that they are borderline artists, even though their styles are dramatically different.  Dillinger is turned on by the cat-and-mouse game he is orchestrating with the FBI that he tries to see how far he can go without being caught.  He ostentatiously attends notable sporting events and even walks into the “Dillinger Squad” unit office to see if anyone would notice him. McCauley is determined to manage the risk of being caught by remaining as anonymous as possible.All of the great qualities this film provides; the directing, the atmosphere, and the cinematography, make up for a group of characters we don’t care too much about.  We are interested in them but not captivated by them, a great misfortune considering what Mann has accomplished here.