This is the story of the last few years of the notorious bank robber John Dillinger. He loved what he did and could imagine little else that would make him happier. Living openly in 1930s Chicago, he had the run of the city with little fear of reprisals from the authorities. It's there that he meets Billie Frechette with whom he falls deeply in love. In parallel we meet Melvin Purvis, the FBI agent who would eventually track Dillinger down. The FBI was is in its early days and Director J. Edgar Hoover was keen to promote the clean cut image that so dominated the organization through his lifetime. Purvis realizes that if he is going to get Dillinger, he will have to use street tactics and imports appropriate men with police training. Dillinger is eventually betrayed by an acquaintance who tells the authorities just where to find him on a given night. Written by
When Melvin Purvis shoots down Pretty Boy Floyd, he asks Floyd for info on the whereabouts of Harry Campbell. In reality, Floyd was never associated with Campbell who robbed banks with Alvin Carpis and "Ma" Barker's sons. The reason for this question may've been to simplify the narrative of the story. In real life, "Pretty Boy" Floyd was wanted by the FBI for his alleged part in the "Kansas City Massacre" on June 17th, 1933 in which an FBI agent, two Kansas policemen, a retired Oklahoma sheriff, and their captive Frank "Jelly" Nash, were ambushed and killed. This was the crime that set into motion the rise of J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI and the start of the "War On Crime". Since this fact would (or could) possibly make the story on film more convoluted, the film makers instead have Purvis question Floyd about Campbell rather than the massacre as he did in real life. See more »
Early in the film, soon after the Racine robbery, November 20, 1933, a radio announcer is heard referring to John Dillinger as Public Enemy No. 1. Dillinger wasn't named Public Enemy No. 1 until June 22, 1934, his 31st birthday. See more »
J. Edgar Hoover:
John Dillinger held up a bank for $74,000 while you failed to arrest Nelson.
Sir, I take full responsibility. And I would like to make a request. That we transfer men with special qualifications to augment the staff here in Chicago. There are some former Texas and Oklahoma lawmen currently with the Bureau in Dallas.
J. Edgar Hoover:
I thought you understood what I'm building. A modern force of professional young men of the best sort.
I'm afraid our type cannot get the job done.
J. Edgar Hoover:
Excuse me, I cannot hear you.
[...] See more »
The title of the movie is not shown until the end credits. See more »
It is an entertaining backseat ride into the life of a country boy turned bank robber
With Billie Holiday singing her heart out and the subtle details of cracked nail polish and $3 dresses, Public Enemies brings you into the era of the Great Depression without boring you with back stories and explanations.
It is an honest bio-pic with little factual variations outside of John Dillinger's romantic ambitions. It is an entertaining backseat ride into the life of a country boy turned bank robber in a time where America hated money-makers and banks. A time when people were starving and in need of a gun-toting, charismatic mid-western boy to stir things up a bit, one bank robbery at a time.
A Cast of Winning Players Director Michael Mann is known best for Heat, Collateral and Miami Vice. His attention to detail is known and it is said that he went above the call of duty in his research for this movie. Obviously he deemed it important to depict a true version of the Dillinger story with a bit of Hollywood sprinkled in to keep our attention. Johnny Depp is solid as the charismatic bank robber, adopting his mannerisms, speech and swagger and even the trademark smirk that is seen on all of Dillinger's photos. Christian Bale is perfect as Melvin Purvis, looking similar to the "G man" and confidently playing the role convincingly.
Digital Camera and No true sense of good and Bad The camera threw me off a bit switching from an old sepia toned look to a digital one during fights. At times it made you feel as if you were an observant on the street while other times it felt just like a movie. I wasn't sure why this was but I concluded that Mann wanted us to be there with Dillinger most of the time and at other times we are to observe from a distance. There was no great love felt for any of the dark heroes, the charismatic Dillinger was likable but I never felt concern for his well-being. The FBI agent in Purvis (Christian Bale) was the typical white knight archetype and was given little personality outside of this so I felt nothing for him either. The romance between Dillinger and Billie Frechette (Marion Cotillard) was interesting but felt clichéd (gangsters always have THAT chick in these movies) and just like real life that political blowhard J.Edgar Hoover (Billy Crudup) is the only real "bad guy" in the entire film.
Final Thoughts It felt like a different time period and the choreography of the gunfights were done well enough to keep me interested. With as colorful a crew as the boys who ran with John Dillinger, it would have been hard to direct a movie like this while keeping everyone relative. Men like Alvin Karpis (Giovanni Ribisi), Pretty Boy Floyd (Channing Tatum) and Baby Face Nelson (Stephen Graham) are given screen time, as well as Capone's number one do-boy Frank Nitti (Bill Camp). Still there was so much shown that you tend to lose your familiarity with Dillinger's quest for whatever it is he wanted and the hopelessness of his situation settles in after awhile. It is a good movie with no real emotional weight, just a "this is what happened" gloss to the entire thing with a sprinkling of charisma to top it off. If anything, you will go researching Dillinger and gang after the movie has piqued your interest.
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