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.


The New Yorker






~ by eaesthete on 07/03/09.

One Response to “The Poetry of Crime”

  1. I would agree with everything said. And then some. Seeing Pretty Boy Floyd gunned down in the apple orchard “is” poetry as depicted by Mann. And my, but how the business of capturing the notorious of the day has changed. No DNA ..No CNN ..No TV. Back in “the day” one could go out and rob a bank, and then that same evening seen being seated in his favorite restaurant. No one knowing who you were. If one was concerned about being discovered, a simple pair of glasses was enough of a disguise. Public Enemies is not a great movie, but a very good one. A good time period piece. I do recommend it.

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