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Decent film with room for improvement
MovieJuice26 March 2018
Public Enemies is a crime drama based on the true story of the infamous bank robber of the 1930's, John Dillinger. Johnny Depp does an outstanding job playing the main character, but I don't feel that this is his best performance. Perhaps it is a lacking script that causes the unimpressive characterization. Christian Bale plays the FBI agent chasing Dillinger with fervor. His betrayal seems a bit dry and lackluster. The story is interesting and well paced, but there is slightly too much time put into the setup and not enough in the execution of the plot. The action sequences are quick and the machine gun shoot-outs are mind blowing. Overall, I left the theater feeling that this was a decent film with room for improvement. It is worth a watch, especially if you like the period portrayed. I give this movie 7 stars for a just-above mediocre production. I hope this review was helpful. -MovieJuice
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Well-Made Cinematically, But Shallow
Eschete3 July 2009
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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Overview of a criminal mastermind
Reef-Shark6 July 2009
Public Enemies is an alright docu-crime-thriller that, thought well-made, ends up coming out dry. Many of the scenes are well paced, but in its running time the film feels like a very rushed overview of the final years of John Dillinger. What I mean to say is that this is a good movie, but you probably won't leave the theater feeling like you've learned anything about John Dillinger, other than trivial facts. The movie never really gives Johnny Depp a chance to shape the character into a believable icon because as I previously stated this film feels more like a dramatized overview of Dillinger's career instead of focusing on the man himself.

Now, Johnny Depp is a fine actor, and he reminds us in this movie that he isn't only a go-to man for quirky, weird, whimsical, and bizarre characters. In Public Enemies Depp reminds us that he is talented as a traditional actor and that he is still one of the best in Hollywood today. The problem is the script he is given for Public Enemies never lets him expand on anything regarding John Dellinger as a person. In Ridley Scott's 'American Gangster' Denzel Washington was given a chance to really emphasize the qualities he felt reflected his view of Frank Lucas. Public enemies, Johnny Depp never truly gets to define what he feels are the most important aspects of his portrayal of Dellinger because often the film gets too caught up in the action and events instead of its characters.

Christian Bale bounces back after a sub-par performance in 'Terminator: Salvation' and it's good to see him working his voice manipulation ability again, because I for one was beginning to think he'd gotten stuck on his Batman-style growl. Playing the FBI agent pursuing Dillinger he is an interesting character due to his dedication and could have been a really interesting character, but like Depp, Bale never really gets a chance to try and expand on his character.

The music isn't anything you haven't heard before in previous crime films of this sort, but for the most part it works. I wouldn't buy the soundtrack to this film, but it certainly didn't take away from the experience. Also, songs from the 30s are played throughout, and most of the time they manage to fit into the story's many montage scenes very well.

Director Michael Mann seems a tad bit off when compared to some of his previous films. He often goes for a look that makes the audience feel that they're in the middle of everything, and that's good in small stretches, but I felt he used this technique too often and I found myself growing a tad bit dizzy at times, and had a desire to see what was going on in the shootouts. I found it strange, that with his recent films such as 'Collateral', where the characters had been the center-focus of the entire film, he could then make a movie about one of the most infamous criminal minds and have it be more about the history than the characters who lived it.

The thing that is most fascinating about this film is the costumes and sets. The men and women behind these really outdid themselves and created a very authentic view of 1930s Chicago. This aspect of the film alone makes it worth seeing! Every costume and set seems to have been made with the utmost attention to detail, and the final result is very pleasing to the eye.

The final product in an okay docu-drama on the life of one of America's most infamous criminals, but in the end you really don't discover anything about John Dillinger that you couldn't have found out by looking him up on Wikipedia. So this is a pretty film to look at, and with Depp and Bale it's a good way to introduce those unfamiliar with Dillinger to the criminal, but if you were looking for a character study on the bank robber you may find yourself a tad-bit disappointed.

I wouldn't come close to calling Public Enemies one of the best movies of the summer, or of the year, but when compared to several other films that are currently being screened I would still highly recommend it. With movies like 'Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen' out there your money is best spent on Michael Mann's Public Enemies.
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The devil is in the details
Chris Knipp5 July 2009
It's as hard to get a grip on Mann's impressive but vaguely off-putting new movie about John Dillinger's last thirteen months as it is to project yourself into the coldly beautiful digital images. The title itself provides a clue to the problem: it doesn't focus on the star criminal embodied by the charismatic and -- here -- coolly dashing Johnny Depp, whose quips and provocations in the trailer draw us into the theater to see him, only him, and his bold exploits. It points instead to the wider focus of Mann's book source -- 'Vanity Fair' writer Bryan Burroughs' 600 pages of meticulous research, 'Public Enemies: America's Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933-34.' Relentless G-man Purvis (a convincing but bloodless Christian Bale) and his rising boss FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover (Billy Crudup, both droll and period) are part of another story as important as the bank robber's final wide ride, the story of the growing cruelty and relentlessness of the forces of American law.

Look at another title of a movie about a doomed but spectacular crime spree: Arthur Penn's 'Bonnie and Clyde.' That 1967 classic works so well because it's character-driven. Even in the sketchy but powerful scenes that outline John Dillinger's romance with French-Native American hatcheck girl Billie Frechette (Marion Cottillard, working wonders with limited material), character is subsidiary to function: "I rob banks," Johnny says. And then: "What else you need to know?" Well, quite a lot, actually, for a rounded character to emerge. Mann's movie is meticulous as to period look, to facade, but not to essence. Its street scenes are full of detail, its clothes immaculate and accurate. Taking place in 1933-34, however, it provides too few overt signs of the Great Depression. The film is also misleading in showing the Dillinger gang only robbing grand, marble-hall-and-column banks, when in fact they mostly robbed small and middling sized ones.

The overall result is a collection of contradictions. There is romance, but the effect isn't romantic. There's precise realism, but the overall effect isn't realistic. Perhaps the only unmitigated pleasure that remains is the images, the digital with its cold precision, its crisp edges even when many of the cameras are jiggly and hand-held, the depth of detail in darkness, the color that is neither bright nor faded, the sheer satisfying crispness of everything and everybody. And in this one aspect, a sublimely heightened vérité whose look is something quite new, 'Public Enemies' matches 'Bonnie and Clyde:' it makes us feel we're seeing period scenes with contemporary eyes. The best and most memorable images are the complex ones you won't see in stills where many actors are running back and forth in front of the camera, the gunshots are popping realistically in every direction, and there is no hint of the usual film chiaroscuro or highlighting, but the light is somehow beautiful. The cameras move too much, but they do rub your face in the action. What's gong on you may figure out later.

Maybe you can't avoid mythologizing when you shoot a movie about a famous Thirties bank robber and shouldn't try to, but Mann does. He's working, with great accomplishment, from that meticulous historical account, involving dozens of players on both the cop and the crook sides. Dillinger (and alternatively the totally unappealing Purvis) stay in the foreground. But there too is a contradiction, because the way Depp plays his part, witty, cold, and focused rather than warm and down-to-earth, his character ends up being impressive, but ultimately absent. (Contrast Warren Beatty's impotence and blinking charm as Clyde Barrow, an absence you yet want to cuddle.) Even when the characters are strong in Public Enemies, they don't get enough chance to interact. Dillinger is rarely with Frechette. His chance to confront Purivs is too brief, the moment when Purvis tells him he's to be extradited to Indiana and he quips, "There's absolutely nothing I want to do in Indiana." He's not facing off Purvis; he's playing to the audience.

This should have been one of the showpieces of the season, and it is indeed a blockbuster with class in a world of junk. Its virtuoso look and complexly orchestrated scenes will hold up with time, but despite a freshness in approaching familiar genre material, it's missing that certain 'je ne sais quoi.' Even though it's different, it lacks style, movie-making panache, playfulness, suspense, the ability to push a climax, the capacity to take a breather so the momentum builds up again. There's an impressive twittering machine functioning here on all its Ford V8 cylinders. But the light touch is missing, the capacity to make you say "Yeah!", to simultaneously stand apart and admire while utterly caught up in it all.
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Good, but not without flaws
Smells_Like_Cheese6 July 2009
Public Enemies, this film has been built up for quite a while, why not? It stars Johnny Depp as one of history's most famous bank robbers. Also the city of Chicago has been excited to see this, in some strange way we considered Dillinger to be a Robin Hood as he never took money from the common man, just from the banks. He also was clever enough to escape jail by making a fake gun out of a soap bar, I lived in Indiana for a year and people are incredibly proud that Crown Point was where Dillinger had fooled everyone, lol. So naturally I was really looking forward to seeing this movie, especially with Johnny Depp as John Dillinger, it's a can't miss. Unfortunately for me, the film fell short of our expectations as the way it was made and how there is lack of material for Depp and Bale to work with to give these characters any depth. Mann makes a film that is using a digital camera for a film set in the 1930's and doesn't really bring his A game to the film as it's more like "Here's Dillinger's story… enjoy".

Set in 1933 John Dillinger is brought to a penitentiary, but is there to break out the rest of his gang. After loosing a few of his friends, he's headed to Chicago to make his mark on the banks. Melvin Purvis is upgraded by J. Edgar Hoover, who is protecting the FBI from scrutiny by politicians, to lead the hunt for John. John later meets Billie Frechette, whom he takes to dinner. He states plainly what he will do for her and how he will treat her if they are to have a relationship. After a shoot out gone horribly wrong and making the police look more incompetent, Purvis demands that Hoover bring in professional lawmen who know how to catch criminals dead or alive. Though Hoover had hoped for more pristine agents, he agrees. While John and Billie are enjoying the luxuries across the States, the police finally find Dillinger and arrest him and his gang in Miami. However, Dillinger and a few inmates escape from prison using a fake gun. He is goaded into a bank robbery job by an acquaintance, Dillinger agrees. The robbery goes fine until Nelson impulsively kills a nearby police officer, alerting more of the robbery, making Dillinger Public Enemy Number 1.

Now Public Enemies is by no means a bad film, some of the actors were terrific and the sets were perfect as well as the whole feel of the film. But it just won't stop with the "Run! Chase! Run! Chase! Shoot! Shoot!" scenes that seem to dull down after a while. The love story between Dillinger and his gal, Billie didn't seem too necessary, it added to the story but for me felt a little out of place at times. I have to tell you that I'm feeling so incredibly bad for Christian Bale this year as it seems like he's been given characters who are not well written, but I'm starting to wonder if the Batman voice is his new trademark because he was starting to use that voice again in a few sentences. Depp does the best he can, but once again with the lack of material; he's made out completely as the hero of the film, instead of maybe having more of a documentary feel to it and being biased on how cool Dillinger was. Maybe he's Mann's personal hero, who knows. But over all the film is decent enough for the watch, I'd just say if you want to see it, go for a matinée or a rental, it wasn't worth the full price.

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MR_Heraclius23 February 2020
This movie is one of Johnny Depp's best. Regarding content, this movie definitely flows at a high pace, but it lacks the violence that is characteristic of so many other American criminal movies. However, this fact does not bother me at all, and I actually really loved this movie, but I think that the lack of violence may be why so many other people rated this movie with a low score. In addition, I noticed something funky going on with Depp's hairstyle: it's reminiscent of 21 Jump Street! The way his hair is combed in this movie very much reminds me of his bad-boy hairstyle midway through the television sitcom. As a result, Depp appears to be much younger in this movie than in many of his other movies from this time era.
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Back to the '30s with Mann
Hawley_Griffin20 August 2009
My grandpa's first reaction when he heard this movie was being released was -why? Why yet another movie about Dillinger? What can it add? My grandpa's question triggered my thinking. Movies and Hollywood filmmakers don't seem to care anymore about adding something to history or the medium. They just seem to compulsively adapt other movies, toy lines or videogames into modern reworkings. It's a culture of thoughtless recycling. Fortunately, and although I haven't seen the '30s or '70s biopics, Michael Mann does have something to show.

The first surprise is how the movie is shot. As one of the most vocal followers of digital video, Mann seems to exploit its handicaps instead of trying to convince us it can look as good as film. Throughout the movie we're treated to 3D video feel, artificial grain and close-ups which show up every pore on the actors skins. It's like someone sent a documentary crew back in time. However, this incongruous approach also made me experience the 1930s in a way I'd never done before, as a reality instead of a postcard. Almost all movie depictions of the "public enemies" era (even the gritty ones, like Bonnie and Clyde) are stylish and sophisticated. Instead, Mann's compulsive attention to prop and costume detail combined with the hand-held camera-work are immediately urging and attention-grabbing.

Mann, as a filmmaker, always seemed to me more interested in technique than depth or story. This is arguably the same film he has made twice before (I'm talking about Thief and Heat), only this time history-based. As I read on about Dillinger and Melvin Purvis after watching the film, I realized the movie's script is very unusual in that it almost seems to strip the juicy bits out of the story. Where is the scene with the people soaking their handkerchiefs on Dillinger's blood, or the '30s era depression portrait? Like you guys were saying, Little Bohemia was in fact an embarrassment to the FBI in which civilians got shot and the criminal walked away unharmed. Except for a weird scene in which Dillinger walks into the Chicago police station and wanders around, there's a very down-to-earth approach to the character, taking away his more mythical elements and leaving us with a career robber who, like James Caan's character in Thief, seems to abstractly decide to fall in love to make up for lost time.

The movie focuses obsessively on this relationship, instead of the more obvious paths it could have taken. Hoover's incompetence and his closet homosexuality are brief side notes. So is Melvin Purvis. The movie strips him of a personality, showing only the professional side of the policeman. This is so evident that when the title card near the end informs us that he later shot himself, I had to laugh it was so random. I seem to be speaking against all of this, but in fact what I'm doing is pointing out how unusual all of these directorial choices are. In fact, I celebrate them. Public Enemies is a movie that might seem frustrating to many, but to me, it was a refreshing, exciting journey into a world too often depicted and too easily neutralized. It's a great thing to see a copmen-and-robbers film without feeling like I've seen it all before. And make no mistake, the film's action scenes are intense.

I'd like to finish by pointing out that the movie has a hell of a cast. Johnny Depp is a revelation in a time when it looked like his awesomeness was exhausting itself. Christian Bale is not given much to do as Purvis, but he's competent, mostly the Bale serious face we see too much of all the time. Billy Crudup's Hoover is great, he deserves his own flick. Marion Cotillard is a great foil to Depp. There are a lot of very famous faces on the film (in fact, maybe too many), and some of them are only in for very brief seconds - Lily Tomlin, Giovanni Ribisi and Leelee Sobieski enter and leave the screen and they're all very good, but none have any big scenes. This might be the artsiest blockbuster I've ever seen. Which, in my mind, is a compliment.
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John Dillinger- Public Enemy #1
Billy_Costigan1 July 2009
The year is 1933, it's the Great Depression. A time for the desperate to do the unthinkable. Crime was on the rise and people were suffering. For John Dillinger (Johnny Depp) it was a time of infinite possibilities and opportunities. To combat the sharp incline in rampant criminal activity, J. Edgar Hoover (Billy Crudup) forms the FBI, led by Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale). Together they target Dillinger as public enemy number one. Relying on new methods of intelligence gathering (such as tracking the purchase location of a coat or recording phone conversations), the firepower of trained gunmen, and his own relentless nature, Purvis gets closer and closer to Dillinger and company.

"I like baseball, movies, good clothes, fast cars... and you. What else do you need to know?" - John Dillinger. Johnny Depp IS John Dillinger. He's perfect for the role. The cool, confident and almost cocky nature of the character is really portrayed on screen (such as bragging to reporters about his bank jobs and teasing Purvis and agents who are after him). It's a look of how a man lived and succeeded in a hard time. Dillinger was a man that lived in the moment as only a man in the depression could. From the worlds on John Dillinger, "I'm to busy having fun today to even think about tomorrow." Who knows what tomorrow might bring? Bale also succeeds in his role and is a solid counterpart against Depp. It works well having two top, well known actors opposing each other on screen.

The film is directed by Michael Mann who brought us such films as Heat, The Insider, and Collateral and he adds another good film to his resume with this one. The action sequences, bank heists, and shootouts in this film are probably the biggest highlights. After all, this is from the same guy who gave us one of the most famous and arguably the best shootout of all time in Heat. The sequences are cool, slick, and gritty. Excellence at it's best. (I have to throw in a note of praise for the superb shootout at the Little Bohemia lodge, which was an extremely impressive scene)

The cat and mouse aspect makes it intriguing, but I think more could have been added to it. It just feels as if something was missing. Much of the film focuses on the love story between Dillinger and Billie Frechette (Marion Cottillard) It's also interesting to see the other gangsters of this time and how they relate to Dillinger and the criminal world.

Much has been made of Public Enemies being filmed on HD video, mostly complaints. I must say that at times, the picture looked amazing. The night sequences, especially looked beautifully slick and realistic. I loved the cinematography here. The cars, headlights, street lights, and everything looked fantastic. Other times, it doesn't look as good. It just felt as if something didn't look right. I'm not sure what to think about this.

One problem I had with this film would have to be the lack of character depth in many of the characters. At times, it seems as if we are expected to know and understand the characters before going to see the film because it is a real life story. But as a film, it could have developed the characters more to help us (and those who know nothing about Dillinger, his life, or Purvis and the FBI) understand them better. Another problem was some of the historical inaccuracies. Many things portrayed in the film, do not happen as they did in real life. Many sequences are just out of order. I know the filmmakers had to know about this and just tried to work it in as best as they could. It's not a documentary, it's a movie.

I really enjoyed Public Enemies. It's a solid crime drama and a good summer film. I understand expectations were through the roof, but that's a little hard to ask for. It's a really good film, but not quite a great one... The action is fun, the story is interesting. Maybe instead of being a very good film, it could have became a really great film if more was put into the characters? I'm not sure. It just felt as if something were missing. But who can knock a film for still being good?
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Johnny Dillinger and other characters
hollyfairbanks-usa2 July 2009
Digital is the world of Michael Man with all its drawbacks. It works up to a point, if you don't mind being distracted by the make up on the actors faces, pimples and blemishes. The final adventures on John Dillinger's life look and feel like a work of fiction and I suspect that in "Public Enemies" they are, 50/50, fact and fiction. Johnny Depp is marvelous no matter what and his is a star performance. There is only a vague approach to a real characterization, but I didn't care because I go wherever Johnny Depp wants to take me. It was like that with Gary Cooper too, wasn't it? Part of the sneaky narrative is to have Dillinger the criminal played by the angelic Depp and Purvis the noble FBI guy played by Christian Bale that emanates evil without even trying. If you're interested in performances, like I am, Billy Crudup is the thing in a sensational turn as J Edgar Hoover in spite of the digital thing, that makes him look as if Hoover suffered from some rare skin condition, damn shame if you ask me. Marion Cottillard is absolutely lovely but we knew that already and the rest of the characters remain an enigma, they enter and leave the scene without us ever having a clue who they are. Giovanni Ribisi, Stephen Dorff, Jason Clark, who were they and Lelee Sobieski? It was startling to see her appear on the third act. Who was she suppose to be? In any case, the film has a Michael Mann feel and it's technically great. The shootings are extraordinary and Johnny Depp totally beautiful. I suppose that should be enough to applaud and recommend "Public Enemies". I did and I will even if, I must confess, I expected more or maybe less.
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Not one of Mann's best, but still...
praveen7713 August 2009
Whenever a Michael Mann movie comes out, I am besieged by expectations. This is one director whose style I seem to consistently like. The Insider, Heat, Collateral, The Last of the Mohicans, and yes.. I LOVED Miami Vice the movie (despite the many negative reviews it seemed to have got). So, when Public Enemies came out, and seeing Mann team up with Johnny Depp and Christian Bale, I knew I could not miss this. However, probably because of the high standards he has set for himself, I was a little disappointed with this.

The story is about a gangster bank robber, John Dillinger(Johnny Depp), back in the '30's, who pulled off a couple of daring heists and prison breaks. He was generally considered a hero among the public, as this was during the years of the great depression and Dillinger was seen as someone who steals from the rich man. A fledging FBI, led by the peerless J. Edgar Hoover, decide to hunt him down so that they can grow the organization, and name him Public Enemy Number 1. Melvin Purvis(Christian Bale) is assigned the task of leading this group of agents.

Johnny Depp is as usual great, but you get a feeling he would have been even better if the script had given enough scope to explore the character of Dillinger. The same goes with his love interest, played by Marillon Cotillard. Again, a wonderful actress, but at times the love story seemed forced into the story. Despite this, they have great chemistry.

Which brings me to Christian Bale. This is an actor who has so much more to offer than the half baked roles he has been getting this year. You get a feeling this year that he is being offered big movies which don't give him a character he can bite his teeth into. First there was Terminator Salvation, and now this. In both, his character never really seemed into the movie as compared to the others. I'm waiting to see a movie again where he will assert himself.

Despite the flaws, this is still a good movie from Mann. Just don't go in expecting it to out do his best.
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mmm enough with the digital Mr MANN
d_bullock1877 November 2009
Ever since Heat (one of the best movies ever) it would appear director Mann has gone somewhere. I don't know where but somewhere not in this world. Mr Mann enough of the digital handy cam. The visuals are awful the sound not much better. I take it that Miami Vice didn't put you off making a film of the same ilk. Please please please film directors, don't follow Michael Mann in picking this type of film making. The picture is dark and looks like something my brother would do on his digital camera. The audio doesn't compare to Mann's earlier films either, it drops out all the time, you cant understand what is being said and doesn't carry any atmosphere. Please go back to 35mm
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It is an entertaining backseat ride into the life of a country boy turned bank robber
Rafacus1 July 2009
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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1930's Chicago Revisited in Style
gary-4443 July 2009
Eighty years after the events, Michael Mann takes on the Period Chicago Gangster genre, and wins, with this entertaining story. Do not be put off by some churlish carping from the critics, much of which is generated by the very high standards that Mann's films are now judged. The lengthy 140 minute running time flies by leaving the audience wondering about what could have been added to the story, not what should have been omitted.

Essentially this is the story of the life, in his heyday, and death of Gangster John Dillinger. It bounces along, leaving little room for back story or leisurely character development, like Dillinger,it lives for the moment. Johhny Depp is superb as Dillinger, Christian Bale a thoroughly convincing Melvin Purvis, his taciturn but determined G-Man nemesis.

A plot curio is that some time is given over to J Edgar Hoover's fight to establish an FBI with Purvis operating as his local enforcer.But the role is under developed, it could be dropped with no impact on the plot, making you wonder how much extra footage was left on the cutting room floor, hopefully set for an appearance on the DVD.

Marion Cotillard, a native Frenchwoman, plays the part of the leading lady, and Dillingers love interest, well enough. In a role which offers infrequent appearances, she conforms to the genre requirements of being easily bedded, hit, and cries on demand.

Critics have queried the way that the digital film is shot.There is none of the lushness of "last of the Mohicans", nor the grittiness of "Collateral", but the compelling plot leaves little time to worry about that.Review audiences also complained of poor sound quality and mumbled dialogue, not faults that I could identify with on this showing.

The "showdown" between Dillinger and Purvis happens early on, in a scene which is played straight and without lingering fanfare, it is certainly no re-run of De Niro v Pacino in "Heat".If the film lacks anything it is a sense of Tragedy, so wonderfully apparent in De Palma's "Carlitos Way". Depp and Purvis are played so ruthlessly and efficiently by Depp and Bale that pathos and emotional attachment are on pretty short display.

The period is lovingly recreated by Mann and the action sequences, unsurprisingly, never fail to disappoint, indeed when Dillinger is first shown robbing a bank his vault over the counter is seen in graceful slow motion. Diana Krall has a pleasing cameo as a nightclub torch singer performing "Bye Bye Blackbird" and the costumes are a consistent delight.

Punchy, light on its feet and offering weighty roles for Depp and Bale, this will be enjoyed by ardent fans and the curious alike.
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"Public Enemies" is inappropriately shot, directed, and edited
walter_gilmore23 July 2009
"Public Enemies" explores the antics of the 1930's bank robber John Dillinger. Although set during the 1930's Mann chooses to shoot the film in primarily HD and with what appears to be mostly zoom lenses. The fishbowl like hyper-clean HD look and video like color timing of the film is inappropriate and off-putting. Furthermore the choice of the Wide-Angled Zoom lens (used mostly in documentaries) distorts the picture (look for ugly distorted hands in the foreground of the frame when Dillinger dances with his "girl" in the first act of the film) and seems student film like. The picture edit lacks a consistent timing and appears rushed and the sound editorial is full of silent holes for no main stream or art house reason that I can think of. It appears that HD, or the way Mann uses and color times HD in this particular film, was not the way to go for a 1930's gangster film. 35mm or perhaps even Super 16mm with some prime lenses may have worked out better for Mann's "Public Enemies". Fincher's DP in "Benjamin Button" was able to appropriately capture beautiful HD images for him but Mann's camera department seems, quite simply, "off", in this film. Why some critics call "Public Enemies" a work of art is befuddling to me. The direction of the film is poor as well and lacks a consistent style and a poor revelation of information. Mann's "Heat", "Insider" and "Ali" all were more beautifully shot, edited, and directed than "Public Enemies". Even the usually handsome Depp looks old and tired because of the nature of the optics and HD acquisition. Sitting in the theater I saw at least 10 people walk out after about 45 min. into the film and the rest appeared bored and confused. Too bad, I was looking forward to a good gangster movie.
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Previewed last night in Westlake, CA
hielele13 November 2008
Johnny Depp was brilliant as Dillinger. You could really tell he loved his line of work, but also struggled with not completely becoming a thug. It was so nice to see him play such a different role for a change. It was real acting, not is normal eccentric character roles (don't get me wrong I love those as well) Christian Bale was also fantastic; you can see his conflict he was having with the job he was tasked to do vs. his own convictions.

Marion Cotillard was stunning and Channing Tatum was such a psycho as Pretty Boy Floyd you hated him and loved him at the same time.

One of the highlights for me was the music. The old nostalgic feeling and the narrator on the radio was one of my favorite bits that was used through out the film.

Over all the movie was excellent, my only issue is with the title. I think simply calling it Dillinger or Bye, Bye Black bird would be better. I think the title really takes away from the feeling of the movie.
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Its Awesome To Be Bad!!!
GirishGowda3 April 2010
This was Marion Cotillard's first film after her Oscar win a couple of years back. My heart ached when she was beaten by the police. I wanted to rip the man apart. This is the kind of feeling you want to feel when you watch a movie.

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 1930's. That's the plot people.

Based on the non-fiction book by Bryan Burrough & set in the time of the Great Depression, Public Enemies is a cops-and-robbers drama, only its more layered than that. John Dillinger (Johnny Depp) is the FBI's most-wanted man, responsible for robbing over a dozen banks & murdering several police officers. Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale) is the FBI agent who heads the operation to catch Dillinger.

Dillinger introduces himself to Marion Cotillard magnificently. He tells about his childhood & that he loves fast cars & HER! That was actually very romantic, in a weird way..! Christian Bale does what he's best at, simply staring intensely & barking orders. The fact that this was a true story made it all the more exciting. Christian Bale brings his Batman tone to some of the scenes. Some may like it, some may not. I didn't like it. I half expected Depp to get by on swagger & charm like in the Pirates Of Caribbean, but he does so much more than that. Marion Cotillard gives one of her best performances. The camera-work used in the film makes the whole setting look authentic & gives a gritty feeling to the film. You gotta love Johnny Depp's style..:) Watch this film because it is not only a gallant tale about honour & loyalty, but also because it's one hell of a thrilling ride.


-Girish, 20
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How can a crime thriller be so boring?
Gordon-112 November 2009
This film is about a criminal mastermind who is elusive to the American authorities back in 1930's.

I cannot believe how boring "Public Enemy" is. I already felt thoroughly bored after twenty minutes, and after one more hour it does not get better at all. There are many problems with the movie. Slow pacing is the obvious problem, as the filmmakers spend too much effort trying to make the film atmospheric. They have simply forgotten that as an crime thriller, we need more action to engage viewers. Instead, most of the film is just talking and talking. When it does show an occasional gun fight, it is unbelievably detached with no intensity or thrill. It is as if the gun shots are played on tape, and are not from the supposed fights. Another problem is that 90% of the scenes are far too dark. It is not fun to look at silhouettes or shadows continuously. When we do get to see faces, most of the time their eyes are hidden under the shadow of their hat. Without this eye contact, I feel disengaged and disconnected from all the characters.

"Public Enemies" is a very boring movie for me. I struggled so hard to keep my eyes open, and I have to say I lost the fight.
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Heat meets Bonnie and Clyde meets The Assassination of Jesse James
ctg072425 June 2009
What a fine collection of talent in Public Enemies. I had so much doubt in anticipation of this movie. I was told that the camera quality was low, Bale's acting was bad and that the plot was confusing and did not explain anything. After Miami Vice, I was willing to believe this might be another let down. Right in the first act, I knew that this movie was the one I have been waiting for.

The last wave of decent crime films was in the first half of the 90's with Heat, Fargo, Pulp Fiction, Goodfellas and Casino. Since then, I have been waiting for more cinematically well- crafted crime dramas. The ones that were expected to be comparable to the older films I think did not reach that level, such as American Gangster. I would say Eastern Promises, Gangs of New York, Road to Perdition, Collateral and The Departed came close, but they are more just good movies of their own.

Public Enemies is the first film in my opinion to have captured the essence of crime drama in a long time. It jumps right into the era, without the explanation that some people wished to have had. We enter right into the world, learning quickly the interactions between Dillinger, Baby Face Nelson, Frank Nitty, and much more of the criminal society of the Depression. I've always loved seeing these characters portrayed in the other movies they are featured in, but this film really had them right.

Michael Mann really exercised himself as an auteur on this outing. Many can criticize his style and decision to shoot HD. Still, artists can paint the crucifixion of Christ in many different ways, so Mann should have the right to explore the story in his own fashion as well. I personally thought the imagery was fantastic, most especially the opening act.

Depp, Bale and Cotillard were all great. So was the rest of the cast. Great balance between tragedy and humor. Go see this movie in theaters or you will regret it. It's quite simply the coolest movie of 2009.
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Horrid and Shaky Camera Work + Dullness = Huge Disappointment
StarkTech3 July 2009
I can't believe a director as accomplished as Michael Mann would produce a movie with this poor of a presentation. More than half the film consists of ultra zoom close ups. Are Johnny Depp's nose hairs really that camera worthy? Maybe they spent the entire budget on gathering this cast and had to hide their period piece shooting behind ultra zooms on two 1930's cars? The horrid and shaky camera work is far too distracting and often pulls the viewer right out of the film. Add to that a rather poor pace and a story that never allows you to connect with either lead and maybe this rating is too kind. For the most part, Dillinger's charm and savvy are lost as we never see what made him a competent bank robber or really why he was an infamous scoundrel. Bale's performance is monotone drab as is most of the running time of this very disappointing movie.
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Not even Depp and Bale can save an oddly disjointed and empty movie
basrutten2 October 2009
Oh boy was I looking forward to this! I love gangster movies, I think Christian Bale is one of the best actors around, I think Johnny Depp is always decent, and I think Michael Mann is a great director. It seems a sure bet, a thing that could not go wrong.

Well. It did. Sort of. While "Public Enemies" is not a total disaster, it's not the new "Heat" that it should have been.

It seems that Micheal Mann has finally succumbed to the style over substance virus, turning Public Enemies into a movie that is almost entirely about atmosphere and fancy visuals. It worked in Collateral and Miami Vice, but this time Mann goes overboard and fails to provide a compelling narrative or characters to care about.

Instead, what we get is a fairly tiresome collection of one shoot-out and bank robbery after the other. A lot of people get shot, a lot of people die, but you very rarely have any idea who is being shot since none of the characters are introduced properly and they all look the same anyway. To make things worse, the editing is all over the place as well, with frequent jumps in time and space that are poorly explained, and whole sections of narrative apparently missing.

Depp and Bale are probably doing the best they can with what they are given, but they manage to be almost totally forgettable, a first for Depp and the second time for Bale (Terminator Salvation being the first). And Depp and Bale are the lucky ones, since the excellent supporting cast really has nothing of any interest to do, and the love story, which is given a prominent place in the marketing campaign, taking up a very minor part and being unconvincing to boot.

As much as I wanted to like this movie, I just couldn't. It's basically a collection of nicely choreographed and elaborate but very hard to follow gunfights after each other, with very little in terms of story or characters to tie them together. Worth seeing for the excellent production values, but not much more
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Solid Story Highlighted With Some Great Performances
cwood06091 July 2009
Let me just start out by saying: This is a very, very good movie. If you're going to the movies this weekend, this is the one to see.

The performances are really the highlight. Depp is perfectly nuanced as Dillinger. It's his most mature role to date. I don't really understand the flack he's giving for playing him as "empty". Subtle would be a better word. He's playing someone who always lives in the moment, and has accepted that he won't be around for a while. I think he captured this perfectly. Marion Cotillard is also perfectly fragile as Billie, his love interest. It's Bale, however, who really steals the movie. His portrayal is absolutely brilliant. He plays Melvin Purvis as professional, intimidating, and broken. Anyone who has seen his work should realize that his accent is spot on. He's also very subtle in his expressions, and this is one of his best performances, right up there with "Hard Times" and "American Psycho."

The shoot out scenes are fantastic. I actually enjoyed the digital shooting much more than I thought I would. It really had voyeuristic feel that just can't be obtained with traditional 35mm. The visuals are across the board fantastic. The authentic places really stand out.

I think the ending will really split viewers. I, for one, loved it. The last line is killer, and left me with a good impression of the film.

Now the cons:

The story spends too many scenes on Dillinger and Billie. The love story ends up feeling a bit contrived. I understand that Mann was going for an old gangster movie type of love dialogue, but it just didn't fit in. The movie had too much to say, and it leaves some subplots completely open. It almost seems sloppy. It should have been 30 minutes longer, with more of a focus on Purvis and J. Edgar Hoover (absolutely brilliantly played by Billy Crudup).

Overall, go see this movie. This and Up are the best blockbusters of the summer so far.
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Some style or substance or anything
InvictaSemper2 July 2009
If the motives of the depression era gangsters were indeed as murky as the lighting and editing of "Public Enemies" then there may have been a better story to be told. In reality, they were thrill-seeking predators who lived as long as time permitted. Michael Mann sees no need to limit the time it takes him to tell his stories, and he certainly has little care for his audience's time.

The film feels under lit, often out of focus, and scenes play with little sense of dramatic or cinematic structure. Characters become difficult to distinguish from each other and often it is hard to figure out really what is at stake other than the inevitable capture of Dillinger. The editing in the first half of the film is particularly gratuitous and confusing when coupled with the hand held camera work and dour, flat lighting; the viewer's eye can make no sense of the composition or relationship of shot to shot and is instead presented with a scramble of action.

There have been so many well told depression era gangster stories over the years, but "Public Enemies" will not rank among them, as in general, the amount of talent that is ultimately squandered in this film, from the cast, Director of Photography, and Editors, to the score and Sound Mixing, illustrates that Michael Mann is a man not unlike Dillinger in his own way: it is inevitable that he will continue to go on until someone stops him.
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Not actually bad, but not good.
Arsenic Drone2 July 2009
This film is a disappointment. Johnny Depp is rather good as the bank robber John Dillinger, and Christian Bale is not bad as Melvin Purvis, the agent chasing him. However, put simply, it feels rushed. The cinematography is ineffective and spastic, and the editing fails to make the story interesting. Perhaps these things needed more time given to them. It's actually boring, which is not what's expected of a gangster film. Without that attention to detail, it ends up simplistic but busy, a bad combination.

The director of photography also did LA Confidential, so it's difficult to blame him for the uninteresting look of the movie. There are two chase scenes which echo each other, one through an orchard during the day and one through the woods at night, which were done well. Most of the action scenes are just bullets spraying everywhere while people run around, with only rare attention paid to constructing a coherent sequence of events. The camera is far too jerky, far too often. Michael Mann is probably to blame for all of this, as the director.

Weak story, uninteresting flow, and visuals without enough punch add up to make this one a waste of time.
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My public record shows that "Public Enemies" is a cinematic hit!
meeza18 July 2009
John Dillinger was a gangster legend who was adored, loathed, chased, admired, and detested by many. There are mixed elements to how people judged John Dillinger, and that was one the most admirable & authentic qualities to Director Michael Mann's John Dillinger gangster flick "Public Enemies". Mann wisely does not evolve into the entire biography of the Dillinger tale; there is no childhood chronology and no catastrophic life scarring moment. It is basically about a man choosing a life of crime in order to live fast and play hard, subconsciously aware to the fact that is will be not be infinite. Mann starts the film with Dillinger already at his height of his gangster popularity orchestrating another one of his "great escape from prison" schemes. Then once again, Johnny D. and his bad boy entourage are robbing banks and living the retro thug life. Dillinger then checks out and romances the lovely checkout coat girl Billie Frechette. Apparently, Johnny's fresh ways were successful in luring Ms. Freshette. During that era of the 1930's crime hike, many Americans were rooting for these public enemies to rob banks in order to show their dislike of American banks for their mismanagement which eventually was the catastrophic factor which caused The Great Depression. Not to undermine the fact that many were against the dreadfulness that Dillinger and his men caused by their heinous crimes. J. Edgar Hoover was during that time trying to formalize his Bureau of Investigation into a national police force which later became known as the FBI. But Hoover had to find ways to vacuum the U.S. Government into this political formalization. Therefore, he exploited the capture of outlaws as a way to elevate his Bureau of Investigations. He then delegated the task of capturing Public Enemy Number 1, Dillinger himself, to top agent Melvin Purvis. The central plot line shootout of "Public Enemies" which Mann exhibits is the relentless pursuit of Purvis and Co. in capturing the charismatic Dillinger and his men. Johnny Depp was a real straight-shooter with his enigmatic but bulls-eye performance as Dillinger. Christian Bale's acting pursuit as one of the elite in the biz took another leap higher with his driven work here as Purvis. Marion Cotillard proved that she suffered no acting letdown, after her Best Actress Oscar, with her strong supportive work here as the Dillinger gal Billie. Speaking of Billies, Billy Crudup crudely transformed himself into J. Edgar Hoover with authentic prowess. Maybe I was hit too hard with Ronan Bennett's complex screenplay, but at times I was lost with "Public Enemies" verbose rounds. Nevertheless, it was Mann who captures his audience by Mannly displaying the Dillinger crime life and his ultimate demise in sheer entertainment fashion. "Public Enemies" might not be the #1 film in my "most wanted" 2009 film list at years end, but most probably will be gunned up as one of the best of the year. ***** Excellent
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Honestly, a little disappointing
timour16-123 July 2009
Considering the actors who took part in this movie, it could have been much better. Not that the acting was poor, but that just too many times I was made to feel restless. Needless to say that 'Goodfellas' and 'The God Father' are in a category of there own, but I was really looking forward to seeing a powerful and modern gangster movie, however, 'Public Enemies' was under my expectations. Except for the occasional brilliant moment, there was still a feeling that something was missing. Maybe it's to do with the fact that there was to little insight into the characters, or perhaps the slightly unoriginal shooting style. Despite these flaws, if I may call them that, I'd still recommend this movie to J.Depp fans, for he was great as so often before and if your up for some violence and blood.
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