The Public Enemy Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ July 27, 2007
James Cagney's breaking role sees him as one of the original "hoodlums", tracing his steps from young tearaway to enforcer during the prohibition years. Pretty much the template for every gangster film to come after, The Public Enemy was a groundbreaker that inevitably had its hands tied by the strict moralistic code that straight jacketed the industry at the time, which in retrospect can be seen to have been rather counterproductive. Without seeing the consequences of his violent crimes on-screen, the cocky and charismatic Cagney is actually quite an appealing character compared to his moralistic but seemingly self righteous and pompous brother. Particularly in the face of such a ridiculous law as prohibition. It has some very memorable scenes, especially the infamous "grapefruit" scene in which the lovely Mae Clarke (who is usurped by the vampish and rather dreadful Jean Harlow) is assaulted with her breakfast, and Cagney's revenge upon the rival mob. It's more of a quaint period piece by today's standards, but Cagney's cocksure performance means it still entertains to this day.
Super Reviewer
September 3, 2010
Typical gangster story, predictable, but with an unexpected ending.
Super Reviewer
½ March 25, 2007
I am a fan of Jimmy Cagney and this one seems to be one of his very early works. Quite typical of the mob style films of it?s time, but for me not enough storyline to separate this from any other mob movie of it?s day.
Super Reviewer
½ January 26, 2007
this a a pretty decent flick. not as engaging or profound as many of the early gangster films were, but cagney was great as always and the movie had its bright spot. worth the watch.
Super Reviewer
May 5, 2007
Watch Jimmy Cagney and Jean Harlow do something amazing with a grapefruit.

Super Reviewer
December 11, 2007
cagney embarks on a life of crime and his presence cannot be denied. his breakout performance here burns right through the screen. harlow still needs some work to reach her own iconic status. the film is a bit dated but after 75 years still amazing to watch
Super Reviewer
December 11, 2007
the founded stone for james cagney's overnight success of his classic gangster status. this flick is adapted from a moralistic social stiric novel called "beer and blood" which is applied in the lines during the flick as well. one of the first movies tackles the mob tumult under the prohibition in the 20s.

cagney's character tom is a hoodlum who's been meddling with the "wrong kind of people" since childhood with his pal matt, he's learned how to steal, intimidate and rob, generally an incorigible man who takes what he wants without hesitation. as tom's relationships with family, a spoilt younger son with mother fixation, hostile toward the paternal prestige: his father and senior sibling mike, thus he defies authority and contempts the government as he remarks on his brother's diligence on schooling "he's learning how to be poor!" and also his disapproval on patriotism which is serving your country in the war, he dismisses as getting medals for killing people, just as rotten as his success made by the brutal violence of blood, especially when mike shows tom his disdain on tom's unjust fortune by thrashing the beer cask contemporary standard, those family dramas upon postwar social condition seem dated, hardly to be resonated with empathy. but public enemy has its own relevant importance by being one of defining evidences of this decade's spirits as some historical residual with characters in simplistic archetypes.

the mere timeless element which contributes "public enemy"' as one mighty unshakable classic is james cagney's conspicuously ballistic performance as the cocky gangster who growls and curses like a machine gun, a misogynist who smashes a grapefruit to mae clark's facecheek after quibbing "i wish you were a wishing well, so i could tuck a bucket and sink it"....also delivers the famous line "i aint so tough!" after being shot down to loblolly in the rain.

jean harlow also makes her cameo as cagney's mistress after tossing away mae clarke out of abhorrence...harlow says her lines bluntly like "oh, my bashful boy...i could love you to death"...harlow is more like decorative vase as gangster's eagerness to boast his flamboyance. but harlow's wardrobe is glamous enough to nuance her screen time. one trivia is that the role tom was assigned to co-star ed woods but director demands the exchange as temporal trial, then woods' carrer became luckluster after public enemy, cagney remained ace still.

typically the public enemy is enclosed with a moralistic ending just as your parents would preach: you would end up no good being a gangster.
Super Reviewer
October 27, 2006
THE gangster movie.
Super Reviewer
½ September 20, 2007
Just filling in movie ratings, folks. A couple of James Cagneys and some airplane flicks. Wish I had more to say. What's up with that, anyway? Not having the energy for journals anymore? To speak freely like so many of us once did? The activity on these things has sharply declined on an aggregate level, I imagine, coinciding with the exodus of departing vets for lives of non-RTness. Are we collectively growing less bored with our age or perhaps more tired of each other? What happened to that urge to be that proud monolith in the crashing sea of internet noise? What hath killed the desire to be defiantly bored and ramble on and on and on and on and on in these (eventual) online epitaphs, all for the world's attention? Movies are to blame! There are some good ones, sure, but so few to really champion among our online brethren. Nothing seems capable of sending our blood to a boil anymore. Where have all the quality juggernauts gone? C'moooon, PJ! Let's rock The Hobbit! That'll lure 'em back to the yard! Just...a few more years of...quiet leaves scuttling on the porch, the gentle breeze of yellowing days our only measurement...

And so it is autumn.
Super Reviewer
½ January 7, 2006
[font=Century Gothic]In "The Public Enemy", Tom Powers (James Cagney) and Matt Doyle(Edward Woods) are childhood friends in Chicago whose lives of crime start in their youths as shoplifters. As they get older, they move on to armed robbery and eventually murder. Once prohibition starts in 1920, even more criminal opportunities come their way.[/font]
[font=Century Gothic][/font]
[font=Century Gothic]"The Public Enemy" is a fairly good crime melodrama. The acting is okay except for James Cagney's extraordinary starmaking performance. And the finale is unforgettable.[/font]
[font=Century Gothic][/font]
[font=Century Gothic]The movie does not go so far as to condemn prohibition but it admits it made matters worse in the criminal world. Its moral is that the public cannot be naive and ignore criminal activity that is happening right under its nose.[/font]
Super Reviewer
½ February 24, 2012
This film is actually a bit overrated. I was actually very disappointed. I was expecting a masterpiece. Something that would have me screaming because to tell you the truth me and gangster films are like a screaming fan girl. It was weak in the writing so I don't know why it got nominated for best screenplay at Oscars. It was a different time so I'm not to worried. The acting was also lacking. But it is a classic and there acting was different back then. This was filmed around the time when modern acting was just getting started. Hollywood was also making the transition from silent films to talkies so they where probably just struggling. The plot was also a bit weak. There weren't much interesting scenes. I think even I could have done a much better job. But this film isn't all bad. There where some things about this film. It was an okay watch. The ending was also shocking and it probably was even more shocking back then. This is one classic that I hope they remake because I'm pretty sure they won't ruin it. Needles to say, if you like classic gangster films then you should watch this one. It's a must.
Super Reviewer
April 3, 2010
It was an okay movie. But to be fair I did sleep through part of it. I loved the ending.
Super Reviewer
August 1, 2006
A tough, influential gangster film founded on simplistic morals. This film is an ideal showcase for James Cagney's iconic performance and presence, and he commands every scene he's in. Although some may argue that this picture is dated in many regards, it is still an engaging piece of cinema that manages to establish a great deal of development in its brisk running time.
Super Reviewer
½ February 22, 2010
Along with 'Little Caesar,' THE classic gangster film that started a crimewave of imitators (ha ha). 'Little Caesar' is more archetypal, featuring Edward G. Robinson's signature "You do as I tell ya, see?" stylized line delivery, whereas 'Public Enemy' is more of a young-man-gone-bad character study. James Cagney's star-making role also introduces Joan Blondell and Jean Harlow as molls very early in their careers. Has some memorable scenes including Cagney shoving a grapefruit into Mae Clark's face and his crazed look as he walks through the rain towards a violent confrontation. Holds up well 80 years later!
Super Reviewer
½ December 16, 2009
Tommy Boy... sweet illusion of a good and considerate boy... but another is Tom's true face. He belongs to a different world and the way back home is locked.
Super Reviewer
July 5, 2008
The most famous of the 1930s gangster movies and the film that put James Cagney on the map. I'm not sure that this deserves to be the best regarded of the genre, I probably prefer both "The Roaring Twenties" and the Howard Hawks "Scarface," still this is a pretty good movie and I can see why it's so well remembered. It's main problem is that it has A LOT of old fashioned overacting. I know you have to expect this from these really early sound movies, but it was a big time distraction just the same. Otherwise this is pretty damn solid.
Super Reviewer
½ September 12, 2007
I liked a lot of it, but the studio's moralizing at the beginning and end left a bad taste in my mouth.
Super Reviewer
March 8, 2006
Classic gangster film.
½ April 5, 2014
James Cagney gives his star-making performance as Tom Powers, a young man who is involved in gang activity from a young age. It is a great gangster movie, and since it was made in the pre-code era you get stuff that you don't expect from films prior to the 60s, like definite references to sex, a character who is clearly meant to be gay (though not explicitly stated), and raw gritty violence. Cagney is simply great, he is a real badass prick who doesn't take guff, and will kill anyone who crosses him or hurts his friends...even if they are just a horse. When you see Cagney as likable nice guys in things like "Footlight Parade", then see him here, it is easy to see what an actor he was. A true classic gangster film, check it out.
November 15, 2011
One of the better classic Warner Bros gangster movies. In some ways the least dated of the ones I've seen, the only glaring thing that dates it is that that grapefruit scene. I don't get why people cite that as a favorite comic (or just iconic?) part of the movie, it's a mean and cruel little ad lib that would make the movie better without it in there. Cagney is great again, the guy is just a big ball of energy on screen. The ending scene in the rain is pretty awesome as well, I wonder if that was an inspiration for the scene in Road to Perdition, it reminds me a lot of it.
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