Thursday, October 08, 2009

The Easy, Breezy Yesterdays

Dillinger (1973)
directed by John Milius
rating: 4 out of 5 cravats
on DVD from Netflix

When Richard Linklater wanted a particular sense of bank-robbing camaraderie - of the sort that The Newton Boys aspires to but doesn't achieve - I'd be willing to bet that he sat down and screened Dillinger. And thinking of that as Warren Oates, Geoffrey Lewis, and Harry Dean Stanton wend their way through the countryside, dancing in Tucson and kidnapping Michelle Phillips from a Chicago bar, one can't help but amend John Milius' screenwriting mantra. It was a pleasure to be robbed by a man like Dillinger, Milius says; but even better, one comes to believe, to be a participant in this movie about him, whether stuntman, gaffer, or star. Ben Johnson's Melvin Purvis could convincingly bring every gangster of the era to justice, although the real-life Purvis only got "Pretty Boy" Floyd and John. Dillinger wouldn't be the same without the rest of them, though - Machine Gun, Baby Face, Handsome Jack, and Harry Dean - so there they are, guns in hand, and an hour and forty-five minutes to empty every shell in sight.