All About Steve (2009)

Rated: PG-13 for sexual content including innuendos.
Length: 99 minutes
Grade: C+C-CC=C+
Budget: $15 million
Box Office: $42 million (34 U.S., 4 Intl., 4 DVD)

Written by: Kim Barker (License to Wed)
Directed by: Phil Traill (Guest director on TV episodes like Cougar Town, Kath & Kim, and 10 Things I Hate About You)
Starring: Sandra Bullock, Thomas Haden Church, Bradley Cooper, Ken Jeong, and DJ Qualls.

Mary Horowitz is a socially inept crossword constructor who loses her mind when she is set up on a blind date with a sexy TV camera man. Losing her job after writing an unsolvable puzzle “all about Steve,” she stalks him around the country in the hopes of building a life together.

Entertainment Value: C+
On the one hand, a lot of the plot and the substance of this movie is remarkably idiotic. However, I laughed a lot. And I laughed in spite of my belief that Sandra Bullock was deliberately trying to be a female Michael Cera throughout this entire movie. It’s silly, but it’s fun.

Superficial Content: C-
Drugs/Alcohol A, Sex/Nudity C, Violence C, Language D+
Early in the movie, Mary throws herself at Steve in an SUV. This is a fairly long scene with lots of groping and Bullock in a bra. Once you get past that, the rest of the movie is mostly sexual jokes without any more real sexuality. Language is medium and just about middle-of-the-road for a PG-13. Some people, including children, have their lives endangered by a mine collapsing, people survive a tornado, there is a fistfight, and one scene is built around whether a child born with three legs should have one amputated. I’d say R-15 is probably right for this.

Significant Content: B
Quirky people who don’t fit in still have a valuable place in this world. It’s better to be decent and kind than to be cool and beautiful. Practical jokes can turn in the wrong direction easily. Crosswords are cool. Obsessions are problematic. People can make an issue out of anything, even if it has nothing to do with them. The media is composed of self-absorbed, juvenile idiots.

Artistic/Thought Value: C
Let’s all be honest. This isn’t a “thinking” film. This is a date movie, and, as such, it doesn’t really even pretend to be about art or thought value.

Discussion Questions:
~When a man behaves as Mary does, he is called a stalker or, at least, creepy. But when a cute and perky woman does it, it’s adorable. Does this double-standard bother you? How would you feel about Mary if you were Steve?
~What do you think of the decision by the newspaper editor to fire Mary in the beginning? What would you have done?
~Would it be fair to say that crossword constructing is an idol to Mary? When she says it’s her mission in life to bring the joy of crosswording to people, what do you think of that?
~What image of the news media does this movie present? Is it fair?
~How useful is it to be normal? Can you think of any advantages that come from being normal? Do you think the unending stream of movies promoting individuality and non-conformity are healthy for people to see?

Poignant or memorable scenes:
~The kids being disrespectful to Mary on career day. How did you react to that? What did you think of that teacher?
~The two camps protesting over the fate of the little girl’s third leg. What message was the movie trying to convey about this? Is it a fair criticism?
~The on-screen diagram of the person falling into the mine shaft. How fair of an image of the news media is this film presenting? Do you think a newsman who watched this film would ever stop to question his own practices? Do you ever feel embarrassed for news people when you see the ridiculous things they say and do?
Overall Grade: C+
It’s not quite as empty as cotton candy, but you aren’t going to find much nourishment here. Still, if all you want is some fun that’s just a bit vulgar, here you go. By the way, if you’re interested in a fascinating movie about crossword constructing, the documentary Wordplay is excellent.

9 (2009)

Rated: PG-13 for violence and scary images.
Length: 79 minutes
Grade: DCDC=D
Budget: $30 million
Box Office: $51 million (32 U.S., 16 Intl., 3 DVD)

Written by: Pamela Pettler (Monster House and Corpse Bride)
Directed by: Shane Acker (No other credits)
Starring: The voices of Christopher Plummer, Martin Landau, John C. Reilly, Crispin Glover, Jennifer Connelly, Fred Tatasciore, Elijah Wood, and Alan Oppenheimer.

In a post-apocalyptic world, nine stitched-together lifeforms teach us about the dangers of technology (and religion) as they try to survive and not duplicate the mistakes of their maker.
Entertainment Value: D
I knew this was a Tim Burton production, and I knew it had a bunch of big names and it would be animated. Hence, I was in. However, after falling asleep at least twice in a movie only 79 minutes long to begin with, what can I say but that this is eminently disappointing. Don’t get me wrong, it’s visually fascinating, but the plot is such an implausible wrapper for what must be by now considered the most threadbare of anti-technology messages that it’s hard to take seriously. I’d far rather watch 9½ hours of the Lord of the Rings (or even the shoddy old 132 minute animated version) than just barely more than one hour of this. Given thirty years to improve on the classic originator of this genre, Wizards, and even twenty years to rework something like Akira and all the Anime it has spawned or the adult-content Heavy Metal, this is no improvement at all. It’s bad preaching at its worst, a fact made all the more obvious by what I can only imagine was a deliberate inclusion of Robert Oppenheimer’s third cousin to voice one of the “stitchpunks.”

Superficial Content: C
Drugs/Alcohol A, Sex/Nudity A, Violence C, Language A
This is not an animated film for kids. It’s properly rated PG-13 for violent and scary images. But you sort of suspected that from it being a Tim Burton deal ahead of time. Remember Coraline? PG-13 is just right.

Significant Content: D
Technology is bad. Science is bad. Power-mad politicians will always use whatever was good in technology for evil. The machines we create will destroy us. Religion is the clothing of scared and weak people who will use brute force to coerce others into behaving properly. It’s good to ask lots of questions. Sacrificing oneself for others is very good.

Artistic/Thought Value: C
The artwork is fascinating and very well done. But the movie is so stuffed with homages that it winds up feeling incredibly derivative. If you’ve seen 2001, The Terminator, Lord of the Rings, The Matrix trilogy, War of the Worlds, and Wizards, you’ll feel like you’ve seen everything here before. As for thought value, I just can’t give much credit when the message is so overt that it tries to squelch thinking rather than stimulate it.

Discussion Questions:
~If you thought of each of the stitchpunks as representing a “type” of person in human society with their slice of the maker’s soul, is this little society complete? What types are missing, if any?
~Discuss the portrayal of religion as represented by Number 1. Are religious figures as abusive as he is? What are his real motivations? Is Christianity hostile to people asking questions, as he implies?
~What do you make of the end scene where it appears to be raining friends?
~Does this movie seem to be saying that technology is always too dangerous to develop or that technology is a good thing if only we can keep it out of the hands of evil people? What do you think? Consider things like nuclear power and biological experimentation.
~With all the movies that have been made about technology going wrong and turning against us, why do you think we haven’t heeded the warnings? Have these movies served to help keep us safe? Do they serve any purpose at all?
~Consider how much technology surrounds us every day such as cell phones and computers, for instance. How much would you say such things are our servants, and how much would you say we are enslaved by them?
Overall Grade: D
Bizarre, ugly, crazy, incoherent, and uber-creepy. Definitely not for kids.

Hurt Locker, The (2009)

Rated: R for war violence and language.
Length: 131 minutes
Grade: ADAA=A
Budget: $11 million
Box Office: $16 million (13 U.S., 3 Intl.)

Written by: Mark Boal (In the Valley of Elah)
Directed by: Kathryn Bigelow (Mission Zero, K-19 The Widowmaker, Weight of Water, Point Break, Blue Steel, and the sci-fi classic Strange Days)
Starring: Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, and Brian Geraghty, with appearances by Guy Pearce, Ralph Fiennes, David Morse, and Evaneline Lilly.

Set in present day Iraq, this is the story of the men of EOD (Explosive Ordinance Disposal--the Army’s bomb squad) when their leader is replaced by a far more experienced and aggressive commander nearing the end of their duty tour.

Entertainment Value: A
If you know that Bigelow is married to James Cameron and that Boal wrote In the Valley of Elah, you have a pretty good idea of what to expect here. It’s a psychologically honest war movie with just enough of the right sort of tension to make you appreciate the situation and people being explored. This movie has made loads of top 10 lists for 2009 with a ludicrously high 97% positive rating from Rotten Tomatoes. Why, then, did it only make $16 million? Well, it isn’t because it’s a lying piece of anti-war propaganda. The woman who rented it to me said that her husband, an EOD man himself, loved it. I think the reason it failed at the box office is because of two things: marketing and the fact that it stubbornly refuses to give Americans what they want in their war movies: Rambo. Many are calling it the best film on the Iraq war, and having seen most of them, I’d have to agree.

Superficial Content: D
Drugs/Alcohol C, Sex/Nudity B, Violence D, Language D
The characters drink and get drunk several times. They swear as much as you might expect in a war movie. There are some sex-related jokes, but no other sexuality to speak of. Violence is the main concern, and the war violence is very realistic, including people being killed on screen by bombs and gunfire and several images of bloody bodies or body parts. This is quite properly rated R, but I think R-15 is probably right with adult supervision. Actually, the movies advertized on the DVD are probably more risqué than the movie itself.

Significant Content: A
The movie opens with it’s one and only main point, a quote by someone named Chris Hedges: “The rush of battle is often a potent and lethal addiction, for war is a drug.” War is chaotic. War forces people to find a way to think about the meaning of life and deal with the fear of death. The feeling of responsibility for the lives of others and yourself is a tremendous burden to bear. Different people handle all these things very differently, some by denial, some by avoidance, some by rational justification, and some by simply embracing the chaos of it all. When people sign up for repeat tours, it might be because they value the endeavor, but it also might be because they find the experience of war so novel and enjoyable that nothing else is satisfying to them anymore. There are more reasons than the obvious ones why families are torn apart by warfare.

Artistic/Thought Value: A
First, know that Boal was writing this after having been an embedded reporter with just such a unit in Iraq. So, as you would expect, the triumph here is in bringing an overpowering sense of realism to the screen, showing life in the EOD rather than telling it. In fact, the lack of much dialogue is itself one clear artistic device in this movie. Some Iraq war movies leave you wishing there was something to talk about. Others leave you wishing the movie itself hadn’t already said everything so obviously. This is a movie which will make you sit and think…and think…and talk a little…and then think some more. Sometimes when I see a great movie that did poorly at the box office (or a mediocre one that did quite well), I’m embarrassed by my fellow American movie consumers. This is one of those times.

Discussion Questions:
~What does it mean to say war is a drug? Do you believe this is ever true? Do you believe it is always true? How might many of the things we know about returning veterans fit an addiction/withdrawl paradigm?
~Why might a returning veteran feel like he no longer has the opportunity to be fully utilized as a man and with his skills? Is this a meaningfully different thing to say than to call war an addiction?
~If you thought that soldiers actually enjoyed or reveled in what they were doing, how would that change your tendency to think of them as heroes doing a task you would never want to do? Does it diminish your admiration for them if you imagine them liking what they do? Does it change your notions about their service being a sacrifice if this is true? Does it seem weird to want someone to hate what he does?
~If you had to say exactly why SSgt. James behaves as he does, how would you describe it? What is his attitude toward the danger of dying? Having survived so many bombs, what else is there in the world to scare him? How are both numbness and terror dangerous responses to real danger? Would you describe him as reckless or powerful?
~Discuss some of the coping mechanisms used by the various soldiers in the unit. Is being missed by family a meaningful thing to judge your life by? If God is love and love is therefore the central nature of the universe, does this seem more like a Christian concept?
~Why do you think this movie did so poorly at the box office? Is it because Americans don’t want to really think about the implications of what this movie has to say? What would it say about someone who supports the war in Iraq and the American military but does not value seeing this movie?
~Why does the DVD kid bother SSgt. James so much? Discuss his reaction to this kid compared to how others treat him.
~Is there a difference between SSgt. James and Ralph Fiennes’s character (the contractor team leader)? Is there a reason for their different fates?
~If idolatry is loving anything other than God, what does this movie have to say about idolatry? Is SSgt. James different from the rest of us, or is he just more honest and self-knowing than we are?
~Who in this movie is sane or the most sane? Is anyone insane?
Poignant or memorable scenes:
~SSgt. James pulling the seven interconnected bombs out of the rubble.
~SSgt. James’s handling of the car bomb. Why does he behave as he does?
~Col. Cambridge’s encounter with the locals. How would Ssgt. James have handled this differently?
~SSgt. James shopping with his wife in the grocery store. Does this scene affect the way you feel about American prosperity? Why is the contrast so absurd? What do you imagine going on in his mind? What must it be like for a returning veteran?
~SSgt. James’s conversation with his toddler son through the end of the movie.

Overall Grade: A
If you want a movie to condemn war or to celebrate it, you’re looking in the wrong place. But if you want to understand war, here you go.

Inglourious Basterds (2009)

Rated: R for strong graphic violence, language and brief sexuality.
Length: 153 scintillating minutes.
Grade: A+FAA+=A+
Budget: $70 million
Box Office: $339 million (120 U.S., 192 Intl., 27 DVD)

Written and Directed by: Quentin Tarantino (Planet Terror, Deathproof, Kill Bill I & II, and the film that started it all: Reservoir Dogs)
Starring: Brad Pitt, Melanie Laurent, Christoph Waltz, Eli Roth, Daniel Bruhl, and Diane Kruger, also with Samuel L. Jackson, Mike Meyers, and Harvey Keitel.

A guerilla fighting unit of American-led Jews terrorizes Germans in this World War II epic which leads toward them trying to kill most of the Nazi high command at a movie screening in Paris in 1944.

Entertainment Value: A+
Okay, full disclosure, I think Tarantino is a mad scientist movie genius, and I’m not alone. He’s also a grade A weirdo. However, I acknowledge that not everyone loves his movies the many of us do. Nevertheless, this is easily his most approachable movie, and I almost can’t imagine anyone who can stomach an R movie and who has any liking at all for war movies wouldn’t love this. Even my wife, who is no fan of either him or war movies thought it was not too bad, which is full-out praise from her on such a movie. The acting, the dialogue, the setting, the plot, the characters, the pacing. Seriously, this is a perfect movie, and if it isn’t nominated for best picture, I’ll be mystified.

Superficial Content: F
Drugs/Alcohol D, Sex/Nudity C-, Violence F, Language F
There is a lot of drinking in the movie, with an entire scene set in a bar with drinking games. There’s almost no sex/nudity, but there is one rather jarring and sudden scene of a man and a woman having sex although without nudity. Language is constant and strong, but if it’s possible for profanity to be artistically used rather than pointless, this is purposeful. The primary issue here will be violence, which is regular and graphic. Lots of war killing, blood, some torture, people being scalped, and beaten to death with a club. In other words, it’s a Quentin Tarantino film. But again, I’d have to say that everything in here is appropriate for what the film is trying to accomplish.

Significant Content: A
This is a film essentially about revenge and the frustration of not getting to see evil people destroyed. It’s also about how a person (or a scene) can be terrifying without being scary. The worst evil of all seems almost charming, as represented in the various SS officers.

Artistic/Thought Value: A
Tarantino is a master at exploring the elements and psychological motivations and rewards of revenge. He has a razor-keen awareness of the role that justice and retribution play in most of our hearts, and this movie is thrilling precisely for this reason as well as because he is a virtuoso of pacing and patience for effect.

Discussion Questions:
~Are you satisfied by the way this movie ends? Why or why not? How did you want it to end? How strongly did you feel about the ending, and what do you make of your reaction?
~What insights might you draw from the contrast between the cruel but charming Hans Landa and the cruel but crass Aldo Raine? Is there any correlation between sophistication and decency in your opinion?
~When Landa is giving his commentary on Jews and thinking like them, is he truly praising them or is he truly showing his contempt for them? Why do you think he makes the choice he makes outside the farmhouse?
~Who in this movie demonstrates honor? Do any of the characters compromise their integrity?
~What is your evaluation of Frederick Zoller? Why does he leave the film?
~In what ways would you describe this as a Greek tragedy? Can you identify the fatal flaws in any of these characters?
~What lessons does this movie have to teach about revenge and retribution? How would you compare it to Deathproof, if you saw it? Does it seem like an American movie or a foreign movie?
~The purpose of Aldo Raine’s unit is to terrorize the Nazis. How do they do this, and what do you think of this as a tactic? Does the fact that it is Nazis being terrorized alter your opinion of such violations of the Geneva Convention and the principles of Just War Theory? Could a Christian use such tactics?
Overall Grade: A+
As I said, I enjoyed this immensely, more than any Tarantino movie yet, and that’s really saying something. There’s a lot of stuff in this movie that I am deliberately not addressing because I don’t want to give anything away for those of you who have not yet seen it but might. I literally feel like I would be stealing from you if I said much more.

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (2009)

Rated: PG for brief mild language.
Length: 90 minutes
Grade: AA-AA=A
Budget: $100 million
Box Office: $208 million (124 U.S., 84 Intl.)

Written and Directed by: Phil Lord (Extreme Movie) and Chris Miller (Extreme Movie, Shrek 1, 2, and 3), based on the children’s book by Judi and Ron Barrett.
Starring: The voices of Bill Hader, Anna Faris, James Caan, Andy Samberg, Bruce Campbell, Benjamin Bratt, Neil Patrick Harris, Neil Flynn, Lauren Graham, and Mr. T.

Flint Lockwood is an inventor in the island town of Chewandswallow, where the only food is sardines and sardine derivatives. Hoping to become a hero, he invents a machine that turns water into food, which then begins to rain down main courses on the island until it threatens their destruction with oversized portions.

Entertainment Value: A
Everything about this movie should mean I dislike it. Sony Animation has yet to make a movie I can endure. Saturday Night Live is not on my to-watch list. And the overall plague of chaos as the central element of children’s movies is certainly not underrepresented here. Nevertheless, I loved it. The plot is crazy, but you have to understand it as a send-up of disaster movies. The jokes are frequent, fast, and genuinely funny, starting with the Columbia woman being knocked off her pedestal by a banana in the beginning. And the implications of the movie are fantastic. I enjoyed this all the way through the end credits.

Superficial Content: A-
Drugs/Alcohol A, Sex/Nudity A, Violence B+, Language A-
Toward the end of the movie, there is some “natural” disaster violence from food and some semi-scary moments of fighting a machine that’s become self-aware. Otherwise, this is basically harmless. I was a bit surprised at the use of “hellhole” and “crapballs” each one time only because they seemed out of place in what I would call a G movie. Both boys watched it just fine.

Significant Content: A
Here’s the thing about this movie, it’s actually a fabulous moral fable about gluttony and the evils of overconsumption. One could certainly see how Chewandswallow looks a lot like the United States, at least metaphorically. It’s also a movie which seems to fall right in with the common theme that parents (especially fathers) are repressive impediments to children being all they can be, at least until it turns out that the brooding father was right all along about the imprudence of his son’s inventions. So, parents are vindicated, although I worry that the lasting impression from the movie is the opposite. The motivation to acquire social approval is tremendously powerful and causes people to do all sorts of self-destructive things. TV is driven by appearance rather than substance. Bigger isn’t always better. Smart women should never stifle their intelligence. And politics can corrupt and ruin science.

Artistic/Thought Value: A
As you may already suspect, although this is a wildly funny and entertaining movie, it also raises a wide range of very interesting discussion topics. I particularly think the issue of the 5th Commandment (Honor your father and mother…) in children’s movies is pretty serious, and what’s interesting here is that the father is so negatively portrayed (as opposed to the deceased mother…what is it with children’s movies and missing parents?) whereas his humbug conservatism winds up being right in the end. The artistic question is which message leaves the most lasting impression: his resistance to his son’s genius and living a dull bait and tackle life or his vindication when everything goes awry with the invention he had opposed.

Discussion Questions:
~Why does Sam Sparks try so hard to hide her science knowledge and general intelligence? What factors in the society is she responding to here? What is she worshipping when she does this? How far has our culture moved toward embracing women for their substance as opposed to for their looks? If you’re a girl, have you ever felt pulled to act dumber than you are around men?
~Consider various characters in the movie and ask how they are influenced by the desire to be popular? How do unpopular characters deal with it, and how do popular ones handle threats to theirs? What is it about us that wants so badly to be accepted? What is the Christian solution to this yearning?
~Have you ever misrepresented yourself in order to get approval from other people? What parts of yourself are you least inclined to reveal to others?
~Compare the Biblical story of the Jews in the wilderness being fed manna by God and the Chewandswallowans having adequate food in sardines. In what ways was gluttony a problem for both groups? In what parts of your own life do you see gluttony influencing you, both in overconsumption and in being picky?
~Do you think this movie is an effective sermon on the 5th Commandment? How many movies can you name where “follow your dream” or “children know best” are strong themes?
~Scientists are often criticized by non-scientists for being too eager to make something possible without asking serious enough questions about whether that thing is morally good. How is that theme represented in this movie? ~What do you think of the argument that being able to do something is a good enough reason to do it?
~The mayor at one point declares that bigger is always better. Can you think of some examples where this isn’t true?
~There are some pretty obvious environmental messages in this movie. What ones do you see?
In what ways is this a moral fable about America?
~One of the running jokes in this movie is about the superficiality of the news anchor in relation to Sam Sparks. Do you think this representation of American media is false, exaggerated, or accurate?
~Do you think there’s any symbolic importance to the names “Flintlock Wood” for an inventor and “Sam Sparks” for a journalist?
~If you’ve seen many disaster movies like Armageddon, Twister, or The Day After Tomorrow, can you see ways in which this movie spoofs that genre?
~There’s an old saying popular in the northern red states that “You shouldn’t get too big for your britches.” Is that a fair summary for this movie?
Overall Grade: A
If you can “swallow” the one basic premise that a machine can turn water in to finished food products and possibly become self-aware, you’ll love this movie. It’s very, very silly, and very, very serious all at the same time. Also, I wouldn’t recommend watching it while you’re hungry.

Public Enemies (2009)

Rated: R for gangster violence and some language.
Length: 140 minutes
Grade: BFCC=C+
Budget: $100 million
Box Office: $206 million (97 U.S., 109 Intl.)

Written by: Ronan Bennet (No credits you’d know), Michael Mann (Miami Vice, Ali, The Insider, Heat, and Last of the Mohicans), and Ann Biderman (Primal Fear and Copycat), based on the book by Bryan Burrough
Directed by: Michael Mann (Miami Vice, Collateral, Ali, The Insider, Heat, Last of the Mohicans)
Starring: Johnny Depp, Christian Bale, Marion Cotillard, Giovanni Ribisi, Billy Crudup, Stephen Dorff, Channing Tatum, Rory Cochrane, Johnny Lang, and David Wenham.

Without claiming to be “based on a true story,” this fictionalized reorganization of the life of John Dillinger tells both his biography and also the origins of the FBI and the advent of modern crime-fighting tactics.

Entertainment Value: B
Depp, of course, is fantastic. Bale, of course, is fantastic. And I can’t quite tell you why I don’t give it an A, other than that I found myself having trouble figuring out how much of this was accurate and how much not. Turns out that lots of it was not correct, although not enough to say this was ridiculous either. Dillinger actually died before most of the people in the movie, who were shown being killed earlier than he, for instance. He never met Purvis, he never uttered final words, and even the events between Hoover, the Senate, and the “war on crime” are all out of order historically. But I only learned of this afterward. Maybe it’s just hard to watch a movie which is neither particularly condemning the cop-killing criminals nor endorsing them either. Good as it was, there was a sort of clinical detachedness to it. But still, certainly good.

Superficial Content: F
Drugs/Alcohol C, Sex/Nudity C+, Violence F, Language C
I was surprised the MPAA didn’t mention sexuality in the rating. It’s certainly not excessive, but there is a fair amount of sex-related discussion, there is one rather extended sex scene (with no nudity), and one scene with a woman in a bath (again without nudity). People drink alcohol and smoke fairly continually throughout the movie. Profanity is solidly in the PG-13 range, neither excessive nor mild. Naturally, the real issue here is violence, which is constant. Lots of people die from gunshot wounds, including police officers. There are violent scenes in prisons, bank robbery is shown many times with shootouts, and in one scene a woman is beaten up by police for information. This is rightly R rated.

Significant Content: C
As I alluded to above, this movie doesn’t seem to take a position on whether any of the criminal exploits in this movie are actually evil. It’s almost like an anthropologist reporting on the curious practices of a tribe of anti-social primitives who just happen to be bank robbing gangsters. Dillinger is certainly portrayed as being better than more deranged types of criminals, and Purvis is well-esteemed as a law man. However, other law men are either inept, political, or malicious. Crime which avoids actual violence will survive as a business endeavor. So what’s the lesson? Lessons seem conspicuously absent here.

Artistic/Thought Value: C
Despite the historical inaccuracies, the attention to detail of character and set was fantastic. So, in that sense, the art value is high. But there seems to be very little here to discuss and think about, which undercuts the achievement in tone and style.

Discussion Questions:
~Why do you think Dillinger so actively pursues Billie? Is making her “his girl” about his own ego? Is it the pride of not losing at some goal he has set? Is she a trophy of some sort to him? Does it seem like real love or devotion?
~What do you make of her devotion to him? Why are women so willing to assist their criminal boyfriends?
~How did you feel about the police officer’s violent treatment of Billie?
~Why do you think people were willing to hide (harbor) Dillinger and his friends? To what degree can you comprehend the idea of a notorious band robber becoming a sort of public hero?
~Ethically, is there any distinction between robbing the bank where people’s money is held and robbing the people themselves? Keep in mind that the FDIC was created in June of 1933, which coincided perfectly with Dillinger’s 13 month spree of bank robberies. Why might someone claim it’s okay to rob a bank but not a person?
~According to the movie, Dillinger entered prison a stupid grocery store robber and emerged a hardened and capable bank robber. Do you think our prison system tends to make people into better citizens or into better criminals? If the latter, how might this be remedied?
~What do you make of the philosophical clash between the old school criminal violence of Dillinger types and the new school bookmaking operations of the syndicate? What do you think of police or officials who turn a blind eye to “victimless” crime and vice operations like bookies but do their best to stop violent crime?
~In what ways are Dillinger and Purvis similar or even the same? What, exactly, distinguishes them? Do you think that the best cops would be the best criminals and vice versa? Why?
Overall Grade: C
If you’re hoping to get a historically accurate picture of Dillinger, you’ll be disappointed. If you’re hoping to enjoy a cops and robbers movie, you’ll also probably be disappointed. But if you want a dark period drama loosely based around the bank robberies of the 1930s with some great character acting, then here you have it.