Dillinger (1973) Review

Director: John Milius

Genre(s): Action, Biography, Crime

Runtime: 107 minutes

MPAA Rating: R

IMDb Page

Written and directed by John Milius (it was his directorial debut), this biopic of legendary 1930s bank robber John Dillinger (Warren Oates) throws historical accuracy out the window in favor of telling the story of the man in a way fitting for a cheap pulp novel. This is not actually the way events took place; it’s the way events should’ve taken place for storytelling purposes. Dillinger here is alternately charismatic, egotistical, and vicious.

Nearly every scene in Dillinger involves guns in some way. Even the part where federal agent Melvin Purvis (Ben Johnson) tells a kid to stay out of crime involves a firearm being pulled out. The whole thing is crammed with action, featuring some shootouts that are beyond superb. The body count is huge by gangster movie standards. You want lots of mayhem with antique, 1930s-era firearms? You got lots of mayhem with antique, 1930s-era firearms!

The humorous, yet hard-boiled, script maintains a quick pace, and Barry De Vorzon provides the competent musical score. The flick had a relatively low budget, so it doesn’t exactly have an expensive look. Despite the limited resources the cast and crew had to work with, it does a good job creating a Great Depression-era atmosphere. There’s an all-star cast of character actors, and they all seem to be having a blast. The characters that they play are highly colorful.

This is simply one of the most underrated action movies of all time. It’s proudly pulpy, action-packed, and reasonably short as well. It’s nothing more than a big slab of pure entertainment.

My rating is 10 outta 10.

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