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Public Enemies (2009)

R  |   |  Biography, Crime, Drama  |  1 July 2009 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.0/10 from 220,111 users   Metascore: 70/100
Reviews: 582 user | 352 critic | 35 from Metacritic.com

The Feds try to take down notorious American gangsters John Dillinger, Baby Face Nelson and Pretty Boy Floyd during a booming crime wave in the 1930s.



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Cast overview, first billed only:
John Judd ...
John Kishline ...
John Scherp ...
Elena Kenney ...
William Nero Jr. ...


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 garykmcd

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


America's Most Wanted

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for gangster violence and some language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






Release Date:

1 July 2009 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Enemigos públicos  »

Box Office


$100,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$25,271,675 (USA) (3 July 2009)


$97,030,725 (USA) (28 August 2009)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

| |

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?


In a Senate hearing scene, when asked how many people he has arrested personally, J. Edgar Hoover (Billy Crudup) sheepishly admits, "I have never arrested anybody." In real life, this was a point of embarrassment to Hoover, and he decided to correct it. On May 1, 1936, FBI agents tracked down Alvin Carpis (played by Giovanni Ribisi in the film) in New Orleans. Hoover flew to New Orleans and personally arrested Karpis as he sat in his car outside his hideout. News reports of the arrest made Hoover a national hero, and solidified his image as a powerful law enforcement officer. However, Karpis later claimed that Hoover's involvement in his arrest was not quite so heroic. Supposedly, Hoover waited in a nearby FBI car while Federal agents surrounded Karpis as gunpoint. Then Hoover walked over to Karpis and told him he was under arrest. When Hoover told the FBI agents, "Put the cuffs on him, boys" the FBI men realized they hadn't brought any handcuffs, and Karpis's hands had to be secured using an agent's necktie. See more »


While at the race track, the characters sit on molded green plastic seats which did not exist in the 1930s. See more »


John Dillinger: You wanna know if we're armed? We're armed.
See more »

Crazy Credits

The title of the movie is not shown until the end credits. See more »


Referenced in Caffeine Madness (2014) See more »


Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground
Written by Blind Willie Johnson (uncredited)
Performed by Blind Willie Johnson
Courtesy of Yazoo Records/Shanachie Entertainment Corp.
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Well-Made Cinematically, But Shallow
3 July 2009 | by (Louisiana) – See all my reviews

Who was John Dillinger? We all know he was a flamboyant criminal who robbed banks, but who WAS he? The question of who Dillinger WAS is far more interesting than the question of what Dillinger DID, but this film, sadly, chose only to concentrate seriously on the latter and gave up almost immediately on the former.

This film goes out of its way--with a poor grasp of history's time-line, by the way--to show us what Dillinger did and who he hung around with, but it does next to nothing to explore who Dillinger was as a person or even as a criminal. It hints that Dillinger might be a passionate lover and loyal friend, but shows us little evidence aside from a few thrown-together seduction scenes (which make his girlfriend/heroine look like a dim-witted pushover) and an awkward love scene.

Even Dillinger's foil, Melvin Purvis, is a mystery in Mann's hands. Did he care about justice at all, or was he just a fascist on a personal crusade? Was he competent in the least or was he just a bumbling idiot? Squinty-eyed stares can only convey so much, after all.

Michael Mann seems to be in a terrible hurry to tell this story, as he is stuck between the rock of having to relate a relatively complete "crime-ography" of a notorious American gangster and the hard place of keeping the movie shorter than 2 1/2 hours.

As a result, a beautifully shot and edited movie that had a lot of promise ends up little more than a dumb, shoot-'em-up action movie wearing the fedora of "historical romance." Good for a date, but not a serious film.

Grade: C+. Things to look for: Mann's ham-handed and laughably obvious political commentary on the use of torture about 2/3 of the way through the movie; psychotically trigger-happy Baby Face Nelson well-played by Stephen Graham; cool old products (Zenth radio); great fashion sense.

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Recent Posts
Worst cinematography in recent memory. backofthemind
Am I the only one who actually likes this movie? ritarams
Only the most ardent Mann fans will dispute this randywst16
What would be different if the events of the movie happened today? dmcreif
I hated Dillinger and wanted him to die. What did I miss? iamdoingthat
Why was Carey Mulligan in this movie? rediguana
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