So, I went to see Public Enemies last night, and ended up being far more deeply touched by it than I expected. It's certainly the best movie about banks, or bank-related malfeasance I've seen since the financial crisis started (for more details, see this piece just up on The Atlantic's homepage about Hollywood and the financial crisis. Some spoilers if you don't know much about John Dillinger, I guess). But there was one scene in particular that got me thinking in a way I hadn't anticipated.
In that scene, a loutish young F.B.I. agent is beating Billie Frechette (played by Marion Cotillard) to try to get her to give up information about where the Bureau can find Dillinger. Her lip is split, her face is bruised, and the agent won't let her leave to go to the bathroom, and hits her again when she wets herself. It's a horribly uncomfortable scene, relieved only when Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale), the man in charge of the Chicago F.B.I. office returns, other agents stop the young man from hitting Billie, and when she can't stand to walk out of the office, Purvis picks her up and carries her, urine-soaked skirt and all. It's meant to be gentlemanly, except that earlier, Purvis and his agents were beating a man injured in a shootout at a bank, who had a bullet lodged above his eye and was screaming for painkillers, to find out where Dillinger and Machine Gun Kelly were staying. Clearly, Purvis has different standards about torture when it comes to ladies, even if they do have big eyes and questionable tastes in boyfriends.