Location: Eagle, ID
Distributed by: Universal Studios
Produced by: Peter Weir and Scott Rudin
Directed by: Peter Weir
Written by: Peter Weir
Ryan Gosling as John “Jackrabbit” Dillinger
Alec Baldwin as J. Edgar Hoover
Michael C. Hall as Melvin Purvis
Noah Emmerich as Harry Pierpont
John C. Reilly as Charles Makley
Gabriel Byrne as Russel Clark
Kevin Spacey as John Hamilton
Robert Downey Jr. as Edward W. Shouse Jr.
Heath Ledger as Lester “Baby Face Nelson” Gillis
Natalie Portman as Polly Hamilton
Alexandra Maria Lara as Ana Cumpanas
Evangeline Lilly as Beryl Hovious
Tagline: “Be a hero. Be a villain. Be both. In the end, it’s all the same"
Release Date: July 22, 2007
Rated PG-13 for some intense violence and language
Scene 1: To catch a Jackrabbit
Fade in. It is June 22nd, 1934. Darkness has fallen upon the city of Chicago. In a little theater, John Dillinger, the 31-year-old proclaimed public enemy number one, sits with his girlfriend Polly Hamilton and her friend Ana Cumpanas as they watch the new Clark Gable film “Manhattan Melodrama”. Outside the theater, FBI agent Melvin Purvis gathers some fellow agents to prepare an ambush. As they wait for the signal, Purvis breathes a sigh of relief. Their fourteen-month manhunt would soon end.
Scene 2: The John Dillinger Gang
Fade in. It is 1933. Two months prior, news of the biggest prison escape in Indiana history shook the nation, as the exploits of how ten men escaped right out of the front door sparked the imaginations of many. Rumors are now being spread of a group of gangsters on a Midwestern crime spree. They are not being viewed as criminals, however. These tales are ones of praise and mystique. They tell of six men by the names of Harry Pierpont, Russell Clark, Charles Makley, John Hamilton, Edward W. Shouse Jr. and Lester “Baby Face Nelson” Gillis, who are all charismatically led by a tall and powerful man. This man, given the nickname “Jackrabbit” for his effortlessly graceful jumps over walls and tables, is John Dillinger and this was the start of the John Dillinger Gang’s rise to fame and infamy. Throughout the year, they perform some of the most daring robberies in the nation’s history.
Scene 3: Wrangled in
Fade in. It is February 28, 1934. The nation has been in an uproar after the capture of notorious gangster John Dillinger. People are still surprised at the fact that the gang had almost escaped right under the noses of several policemen, who helped move their stuff during a fire before they realized it was those guys. He has been charged with numerous bank robberies and the slaying of an officer in Chicago. The media is in an uproar and reporters are trying to get a snapshot of the criminal at every opportunity. He’s almost at a celebrity status with the public, especially when the infamous photograph of him standing next to prosecutor Robert Estill circulates the local newspapers. Something is a little unsettling about this though. In every photo, Dillinger seems to have a certain spark in his eyes. A spark that was looking beyond the flash of the bulbs and the words of the reporters. He was planning something big.
Scene 4: Freedom and Violence
Fade in. It is October 12, 1933. John Dillinger sits in a lone cell in the Lima, Ohio jail. He had been charged with robbery, assault and disrespect to the law. However, he is very calm about the situation. Over the last few months, he had recruited new members to his gang. As the clock rang ten, footsteps echo into his area. Suddenly, two gunshots shatter the tranquility of the jail and a sheriff falls to the floor. Dillinger smiles, as he knows who these people are and what they are about to do. It was show time once again
Scene 5: “Escape Proof” No More
Fade in. It is March 3, 1934. FBI President J. Edgar Hoover informs the nation that the jail Dillinger is being held at, located at Crown Point, Ohio, is escape proof. He promises that there will be no repeat of Dillinger’s violent escape from the Lima, Ohio jail several months earlier. However as news reports are spread and the days go by, a strange tension has started to build. Within the walls of the jail, the sound of whittling and whistling echoes about the guards. It was on that fateful day that John Dillinger did the impossible. All it took was a sneak attack, a wooden gun and a luxury ride in the sheriff’s own car. Dillinger had escaped….again.
Scene 6: Law as a Joke
Fade in. It is April 1934. J. Edgar Hoover is in trouble. Dillinger’s constant escapes and actions are tarnishing the credibility of the law enforcement. Worse yet, the United States is suffering from the heavy burden of the Depression. People now see Dillinger as a hero, sticking it to the government and the banks through his actions. Heck, he’s even bold enough to raid police stations of their weapons. With his superiors threatening to fire him, Hoover orders Melvin Purvis, who has already been working on the case, to take immediate action. Answering to an anonymous tip-off of Dillinger’s location, Purvis and his agents head to a lone lodge. With the sudden barking of their dogs, the agents open fire on a car starting its engine. Unfortunately for them, the people killed in the raid were not of the Dillinger Gang and the FBI now had another blemish on their manhunt.
Scene 7: It Starts Where It Should End
Fade in. It is 1924. A 21-year-old John Dillinger sits in a chair in an Indiana Courthouse. Fresh from a failed naval career and marriage with local girl Beryl Hovious, he and a friend have been charged with assaulting a grocery store owner during their night of debauchery. While John’s friend had hired a lawyer for his defense, John had to face the court himself. As he realizes the court is ready to reach a verdict, John turns to his father for one last bit of advice…
What the press would say:
Who was John Dillienger? Was he a criminal mastermind, a damaged individual or just a petty thief with a string of good luck? This question is explored within the confines of this thoughtful and masterfully crafted film. Peter Weir has returned to the movie scene with a new period piece to show the youth of our generation what the real gangster was like. His attention to detail is seen throughout the entire movie, from the luscious art direction of the 1930’s to the glorious black and white cinematography. To keep true to the films mood, Weir presents the story similar to a 1930’s film with scene titles and transitions. The greatest trick Weir pulls though is with the sound design. Weir uses an audio style that sounds almost like the film was being done in an old black and white film. Hearing that gloriously gritty audio almost convinces you that you just stumbled into a classic gangster film. You’d expect Jimmy Stewart to show up and deliver a monologue.
In the end, it’s Weir, his screenplay and the cast that make the film. Weir presents the story with intelligence and wit, while toying the audience with a logically distorted chronological pattern. Staying true to the real man, Dillinger is shown as a hero, a robber, a media icon, a conniving mastermind and a human being at all times. In the end, you’re never really sure what to think. Sure, he robbed banks and stole money, but is that the actions of a mindless thug or a man who wants to right the wrongs that were committed on him? This mystery is further complicated by the amazing performances of the cast. If people didn’t know these actors were from this era, they might be convinced otherwise the performer’s credibility. Simply put, Ryan Gosling is John Dillinger. He radiates all the charisma, cunning and assertiveness that defined Dillinger’s prolific criminal career. Even when nothing is happening in a scene, Gosling’s body language speaks volumes, portraying Dillinger as a constantly thinking man. Alec Baldwin and Michael C. Hall also provide some excellent supporting work as the two men in charge of Dillinger’s demise. Their big scene, in which Baldwin confronts Hall after the botched attempt to catch Dillinger at the lodge, shows the true cost this manhunt has taken them in a tragic and almost amusingly desperate way.
Jackrabbit is a movie for the ages. From the tragic beginning scene of Dillinger’s death to the heartbreaking words his father gives at the end, the film will take you places you never thought you could go in a biopic.
Best Director (Peter Weir)
Best Screenplay (Peter Weir)
Best Actor (Ryan Gosling)
Best Supporting Actor (Alec Balwain)
Best Supporting Actor (Michael C. Hall)
Best Cinematography (Peter Biziou)
Best Art-Direction/Set Decoration (Richard L. Johnson and Nancy Heigh)
Best Costumes (Colleen Altwood)
Best Film Editing (Lee Smith)
Best Sound Design (Doug Hemphill, Paul Massey and Art Rochester)
Best Original Score (Thomas Newman)