Public Enemies - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Public Enemies Reviews

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Super Reviewer
June 29, 2009
Great cast, great action. Excellent gangster movie took me back to the Untouchables. One of my all time favorites ..
Super Reviewer
½ August 6, 2009
Public Enemies is the story of infamous depression era bank robber John Dillinger who became a kind of mythic Robin Hood style figure in the eyes of the poverty stricken American public of the time. Johnny Depp and Christian Bale starring in a legendary true-life gangster story directed by the man who brought us Heat? Nothing could possibly go wrong, could it?? Errrrm...evidently, yes it could. Once again, as always seems to be the case with over-hyped Hollywood blockbusters, the script is the usual suspect when assigning blame for missed opportunities. We all know what Depp and Bale are capable of, but here they have so little to work with its difficult for me to find fault with them. The film is basically just a series of beautifully shot shoot outs and jail breaks loosely strung together by a skeletal plot involving next to no character depth or development. We know nothing about their motives or how they reached this point in their lives and seem to have no meaningful relationships with any of the supporting characters. The visual side of things cannot really be faulted however and the set pieces are expertly handled by Mann, but the shadow of the infinitely superior Heat looms over the entire proceedings. 10/10 for style, but 5/10 for substance.
Super Reviewer
December 1, 2012
Nice to finally see Johnny Depp not in a weird/cooky role. The film had a lot of action and a great story even though it was pretty lengthy. The fact that it's based on real people and events makes it all the better.
Super Reviewer
November 24, 2012
Solid direction by Mann and a great performance from Depp, towards the end it really gets good.
Super Reviewer
½ July 11, 2009
Michael Mann's production is pure Hollywood, a monument to the myth of Dillinger, using facts as long as they stay out of the way of the fun. Why rob banks at all? And why not quit once you're ahead? Piddling concerns here ... cut to the gunfight, cut to the chase. Not a badly done work, only lacking the humanity to flesh out the man behind the monument.
Super Reviewer
December 29, 2010
I watched this movie at a midnight showing. I was extremely excited for this movie. It all seemed great: Michael Mann, the director of Heat is directing this movie... Johnny Depp and Christian Bale in a gangster movie! OMG COUNT ME IN! However, we were left with a very faithful adaptation to John Dillinger, one of the greatest criminals during the 1930's that was messily mashed together. The locales this film takes place on are sometimes the EXACT locations where they have occurred and others where reconstructed to look exactly like it, but the editing, the direction, and the cinematography were AWFUL. I do not say this about a lot of movies but the editing sometimes got horrendous (Note that I went to watch this movie twice). In one particular scene, there were tommy guns being shot off in front of the camera, but suddenly, Johnny Depp screeches about 4x louder than the gunshots, "GET IN THE CAR!" If it was intentional, this must be an amateur. The film also uses a digital HD camera that create incredibly rich and gorgeous shots.... only when the camera is still. Michael Mann goes for a "shaky cam" feel and it absolutely does not work with this camera. I honestly love the shaky cam (Cloverfield, Bourne series, etc.) but it did not add unto the movie's effect. With the technical sides out of the way, I would have to say that "Public Enemies" suffers a lot in terms of its storytelling. Johnny Depp and Christian Bale played their roles, but the audience was NOT emotionally invested... and this is a problem I frequently see from Michael Mann's movies. The characters on screen never seem to be human and so tension never truly builds up. This is not the actors' faults (He did get some of the greatest actors on screen like Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Russell Crowe, Tom Cruise) but it is the screenplay that suffers. Some of the dialogue were god-awful. I would say the only redeeming factors of this movie are: Some scenes with Christian Bale, the shootout scenes (exquisitely done), and some still camera shots were gorgeous. That's about it. You want good Michael Mann movies? Collateral, Heat, and The Insider are those movies... Unfortunately, this is not it.
shahmeer h.
Super Reviewer
½ December 25, 2011
What was the best part about Public Enemies? The Score. What was the worst part about it? The pathetic use of the stellar cast. Yes, Public Enemies is my 3rd film to be rated a 70% in a row, and im not glad because of that. I first saw Public Enemies a few years ago when it came out, and to be honest with you, I liked it alot. my brain honestly couldn't comprehend the complete story, but I really liked the action sequences. Back then it could've been an 80 or 90 percent for me, but now, I just cant enjoy it as much. The action scenes were nice, and they had some suspense at some parts for me. The love relationship I actually enjoyed this time, unlike the last movie I saw which was The Town, and I hated that relationship. The chemistry between Depp and Cotillard was alright, I think it was the acting that made it that way. But the dialogue and the actions they did to love each other were enjoyable for me. Next, is the score. The score, for me, was one of the best of 2009. It was country, classic, and epic all at the same time. Now, the use of the score was a little sad. At bank heists, the country/guitar score got a bit annoying, and at other times it was used to add more drama to the scene, when the scene wasn't very dramatic in the first place. I have to say, though, with all the opera and choir use and violin use, I didn't care where it was used after a bit, I just wanted to hear it. After that, it brings me to the complete story line. The John Dillinger cases were very interesting to me when I first saw this film. The fact that he was a supposed "modern robin hood" got me very mesmerized in the film. And when they had all these real historical figures like J. Edgar Hoover, Melvin Purvis, Baby Face Nelson, and Pretty Boy Floyd in the film, I was hooked. The historical accuracy was perfect, for all these scenes I were seeing made me think they came straight out of a history article. The story was a bit slow and confusing at times, and even after the second viewing I still couldn't understand what was going on in some of the scenes. But overall, I actually enjoyed the plot. The next thing I want to talk about it is the acting. Here we have Christian Bale, Marion Cotillard, Johnny Depp and Channing Tatum, all in one film, but they simply weren't used well. Christian Bale never made any smart dialogue, I don't even remember seeing Channing Tatum, Johnny Depp was dull and boring the whole time, and Marion Cotillard wasn't a very convincing American woman (I think it was the accent). If there was a favorite character of mine, it had to be the actor who played Baby Face Nelson, and sadly, no one real famous played him. As it is though, the film was worse for me the second viewing, doesn't mean I couldn't enjoy the score, action sequences, and the love relationship. In the end, Public Enemies was a film with poor use of cast, but excellent use of historical story.

Public Enemies- 70%, B
Super Reviewer
½ June 27, 2009
In a way, director Michael Mann took the premise of his masterwork "Heat" and transferred it to the 30s and the real events about America's public enemy number one John Dillinger. Sadly, the chemistry between Depp and his hunter Bale is never as explosive as between DeNiro and Pacino, mostly because they have very few scenes together. That doesn't mean there isn't excitement in this hunt. The shootouts are excellently filmed and there are moments of brilliance, for example in the traffic light scene. The decision to film this on video does give the film a hyper realistic look, which works for some scenes but feels strange in others. Overall, an entertaining, sometimes enthralling crime drama with excellent acting. Depp manages to make you care for this gentleman bank robber, who's more likable than some of the law enforcers. But the rest of the cast delivers the goods, as well. Especially the last shot of Marion Cotillard's face is unforgettable.
Directors Cat
Super Reviewer
½ November 1, 2011
There isn't anything wrong with Public Enemies. But then again there isn't anything really special or memorable about it either.
Super Reviewer
January 31, 2011
Public Enemies is an amazing gangster movie. I love the way it was shot and all the shootout scenes were outstanding. The movie is at times slow, mostly when it is examining the relationship between Dillinger and Billie. At other times it is extremely fast paced and exciting. Michael Mann is one hell of a director and he proves it again here. The same can be said for Johnny Depp as an actor and he was great as Dillinger. The rest of the cast was good too. Christian Bale as always and Marion Cotillard in the first role I ever saw here in. Christopher Nolan definitely took notice of her. Can't wait to see her in The Dark Knight Rises.
Super Reviewer
½ April 7, 2011
A solid 1930's-Chicago gangster period piece, Public Enemies features great performances from Johnny Depp and Christian Bale, taut direction from Michael Mann and plenty of visceral action. However, whether it fully captures the Depression-era atmosphere and provides any real emotional heft - that can be debated.
Super Reviewer
½ July 3, 2009
Whither the gangster film?? I thought for sure that this film would knock my socks off but I was soundly disappointed. A famous American story was watered down to a series of glossy shootouts and bad "big lines." I don't usually expect the world of biopics, or based on a true story flicks; they always fudge the details and make a hero of the main character. But in Public Enemies, the characters practically read you their Wikipedia bios in the early going, and every "important conversation" is poorly written. Mann includes every insignificant shot on the roll - what else is new? - and despite being almost an hour shorter than his breakthrough film, Heat, this one felt more indulgent. Bright spots? Some acceptable action scenes, a more-captivating-than-the-rest-of-it final hour, and Billy Crudup in the role of J. Edgar Hoover. Overall, though, the film's attempt to give raw, realistic action clashed irremediably with the epic score - thank you, music director, for reminding me what I should feel in every scene - and Public Enemies falls into the heap with The Untouchables as another great story completely butchered by Hollywood. Total disappointment, I had to force myself to stay with it until the ending.
Super Reviewer
February 26, 2011
A flawless thriller that brings us to the conclusion of what happened in the last moment of John Dillinger.
Super Reviewer
½ December 15, 2010
Not really entertaining. Bad story telling, Average acting (Especially Chrille Bale), and awful.....just awful sound mixing. One minute you can't hear what they are saying...and the next they are firing and you have to cover your ears. The movie had nowhere near the feeling they where going for. And Michael Mann is not a good director. He just tries to do different and creative camera angles throughout the whole movie....and it just looks stupid. No I'm sorry....I have no good memory from this movie. The worst scene was when Depp was in a house in the forest and everyone war shooting at eachother (no idea why...didn't care for the plot) And it just hurt my ears...Turn the music down. End communication.
Super Reviewer
June 9, 2010
I have always had a preference towards gangster films ever since I saw the first Godfather film when I Was 14. Ever since then, I have loved the crime genre. Public Enemies is the latest of many other gangster films to come out in the past few years along with American Gangster and The Departed. Those two films are great and Scorsese's The Departed has reiinvented the gangster/mob genre for the years to come. A totally new type of film, for me at least. Where does Public Enemies fit in? Well it's only fitting that because film studios release gangster films, it only be natural to make another one. This time, a combination of a gangster film and bank heist film, a film based on the exhilerating life of famed Depression era bank robber, John Dillinger. Helmed by the director of Heat, Michael Mann succeeds somewhat at being an awesome Action Drama film.However the film is flawed, and the reason is that it doesn't show the full extent and misery of the great depression. But one thing to keep in mind is that Public Enemies is an Action Drama film. Public Enemies is one of the best films of 2009. Johnny Depp gives an electrifying performance as the enigmatic John Dillinger. Christian Bale plays agent Melvin Pervis, the man responsible to killing Dillinger. Public Enemies, though a flawed film, is still a superb gangster film with a great cast and action packed bank robberies. If you're in the mood for a thrill a minute gangster film, let it be Public Enemies. This is the best gangster film since Ridley Scott's American Gangster and Martin Scorsese's The Departed. One of the best films by Michael Mann.
Super Reviewer
½ October 26, 2010
A very ambitious period film that is constantly at war with itself, keeping it from becomming something classic.

After a very nice prison breakout scene, director Mann decides to go all shaky hand cam on us - totally ruining some otherwise very nice shots at the "safe house". Mann later, thank goodness, abandons the shaky cam, but this is just a precursor for several little things that perhaps mean little in and of themselves, but taken cumulatively, drag the film down. Notice how Depp, as Dillinger, a man on the run for most of the film, still manages to always have a fresh set of fancy clothes and even more telling, sunglasses.
This is especially noticable after he just escapes with his life after the ambush that kills Baby Face Nelson.

Also running contrary are the themes of his professed love for Billy (a nice performance by Marion Cotillard) and the extended gunfight scenes. In my opinion, all of the bank heists blend into a collage of black suits, marble floors and tommy guns blazing - pretty, but somehow lacking emotional punch.

I enjoyed the pop psychology of Dillinger/Depp repeatedly saying that he won't abandon those close to him; a knee jerk reaction to his mother leaving him to an abusive father (although I could have done without the repeated scenes of Depp looking at the pocket watch with the locket picture of his mother).

The screenplay for this film is steady, alowing depth to not only Dillinger, but his protagonist Melvin Purvis (a steely portrayal by Christian Bale), who is put under pressure by J.Edgar Hoover to bring criminals to justice, regardless of the cost (to both the public and his own soul).

Yes, all the elements were there to make a memorable film, but somehow I started counting bullets - never a good sign in any film. The extended scene where the G-men surround the lodge where an injured Dillinger is holed up along with several of Nelson's henchmen has enough flying lead to build a battleship - which of course makes you wonder where they got all them there bullets. Very pretty to watch, but not very plausable or heartpounding - I found myself thinking back to other gangster films and comparing...Capone - yeah, nice scenes of contrasting grit and grandeur - Goodfellas - lacks the political maneuvering... but the point is, why should I have been thinking about this in the middle of a gunfight? Again, opposites struck me - the wonderfully cool way that the G-Men's shotgun blasts tore the plaster off the lath and plaster walls is so very real; while the bazillian bullets play false.

The film also had an interesting attempt at creating backroom backstabbing, where Dillinger is told by the organized mob that his bank robbing is bad for legitimate, ill-legitimate business (like bookmaking). It is suggested that the Chicago mob turns on Dillinger, but that is not properly delved into, at least from where I was watching.

In all, a film worth the watch, but fails at it's attempt at something truly memorable.
Mr Awesome
Super Reviewer
½ October 20, 2010
Producer/Director Michael Mann ("Heat", "Miami Vice") creates this tale of one of the depression-era's greatest bank robbers, John Dillinger in the 2009 film "Public Enemies". "Creates" is probably the more apt word, as there's more fiction than fact at work here. Yet despite all the liberties taken with the historical facts of Dillinger's life, the end result is reasonably entertaining. Dillinger the folk hero, while alluded to, is never really satifactorily explored, but his love affair with girlfriend Billie Frechette seems greatly embellished. Dillinger's many daring escapes from prison are also documented here, as well as his brief connection with Baby Face Nelson (Stephen Graham). The movie's dry, "slow burn" pace is reminscent of other biographic pics ("The Changeling", "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford"), and there's not really a lot of fun going on either.

America has always had, if not an outright love affair with criminals, at least a great interest in them, especially those from the 1930s. Dillinger, Nelson, Pretty Boy Floyd and Bonnie and Clyde, all inspired the public with seedy tales of violence and crime, anarchy in the midst of oppression. Strangely though, it's not Dillinger who caught my interest in this film (he's portrayed rather plainly by Johnny Depp), but Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale), the G-man appointed by J. Edgar Hoover (played by the excellent Billy Crudup) to apprehend public enemy #1. Hoover and Purvis both seem confident in their new methods of "scientific" criminology, and yet are painfully and embarrassingly thwarted at every turn by the wily Dillinger. While some actual events are represented (the Little Bohemia Lodge shoot-out, for example), the circumstances surrounding them are wildly inaccurate. I suppose some facts had to be changed in order to expediate the story, but some of these changes seem unnecessary. Those interested in the subject matter might find more entertaining than those who are not.
Super Reviewer
½ November 11, 2009
Such a shame the screenplay isnt as perfect as directing and casting.Michael Mann's unique and beautiful visual style could turn Public Enemies to an unforgettable film.What prevented it from being a great film is lack of character development and soul.
Super Reviewer
½ July 29, 2010
Earth shattering, blatantly violent, heartbreaking, and cynical, the entire movie was one big gangster tinged bloodfest, with the soul and bravado of the people's hero, John Dillinger. Worth seeing.
Super Reviewer
½ July 1, 2010
i love this movie. michael mann did a great job. one of my favorite gangster movies. A-
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