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The Public Enemy Reviews

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March 25, 2014
A well done Gangster film. James Cagney makes for a pretty good gangster and some of the set pieces are great. A good film, but not a great one.
Connor G.
March 5, 2014
Not nearly as good as I expected it to be, especially with the reputation the character Tom Powers has, but he just wasn't nearly as nasty as some other gangsters Cagney has played.
December 21, 2013
I don't have much to say about "The Public Enemy" starring James Cagney. It's simply a bore, the only bright spot is Cagney himself. If he wasn't in it I would have hated it. It was made in 1931, one of the first gangster films, it was a breakthrough for Cagney as an actor. Except for its conclusion, the whole film is predictable even though it's fairly well told considering the time. Because of the technical restrictions I had a very hard time finding any other character appealing, it's very static; one of the early "talkies." Including others, Cagney's talents were still very suppressed, what he does in "Angels with Dirty Faces" and "White Heat" is light years ahead.
November 29, 2013
'Ahead of its time' is a phrase used lightly these days. But it applies to this gem perfectly. With scenes of beauty, shock, and engrossing drama, I don't hesitate in naming this as one of the best films of the 30's. Must see for any film nerd, or crime-drama fan.
October 29, 2013
Though it was made in 1931, it still feels as raw and hard hitting as it did back when it was released. There is a certain air of dangerous brutality about Wellman's film that is simply unparalleled and culminated with a final shocking sequence. But the film is made electric by an essential James Cagney performance, that also feels like an ultimate anti-hero portrayal. Here, his Tom Powers is bigoted, selfish and seemingly unable to show remorse of any human emotion, yet Cagney's unparalleled magnetism makes him seem strangely and sinisterly appealing. The Public Enemy is less then an hour and a half in length, yet it is a powerful and influential perfect round-up of the gangster film of the thirties, which went on to influence many similar films that followed it and famously angered censorship boards.
John Tandlich
September 27, 2013
William Wellman's "Public Enemy" is a tour-de-force performance by James Cagney, wrapped within some elegant direction, a solid supporting cast and a simple but effective screenplay.

The Public Enemy, along with two other films released in the early 1930s - Little Caesar and Scarface, set the standard for gangster genre. This was the film that made James Cagney a star. Ironically Cagney was originally cast to star as the Matt Doyle, the sidekick to Tom Powers, portrayed by Edward Woods. When Director William A. Wellman saw Cagney in rehearsals, he realized that Cagney would be far more effective in the star role than Woods, so he switched them and the rest is cinematic history.

Very good supporting cast formed by actresses who subsequently would have an important starring roles of their own: Jean Harlow and Joan Blondell. Mae Clarke became known for her scene with Cagney, in his striped pajama, sat opposite Mae Clarke at breakfast and decided he had had enough of her nagging and pressed half a grapefruit into Clarke's face.

Donald Cook was well cast as Powers' brother Mike who returns from World War I shell shocked, but able to discern the gangster that his brother has become. Beryl Mercer is equally good as Powers' mother who does not have the foresight to see that her son's path will lead to his impending demise.

One thing that is not clear is why Powers, in a hospital after being wounded in a gun-fight, is not under police arrest. In the end he is kidnapped from the hospital and, in a scene that could only be allowed in a time before the studios' production Code, is dumped dead on his doorstep.
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.
August 21, 2013
Pre-code gangster goodness. James Cagney is lousy with charisma.
May 13, 2008
The great James Cagney's repeated slapping on others' faces can't save the film from being horrendously dated. You may praise for its originality, but it's just a piece of cake when you look at the gangster epics later.
August 11, 2012
This is the one where Cagney smashes the grapefruit in Mae Clarke's face .....
July 20, 2012
1972's The Godfather Is My Fourth Favorite Film Of All Time.
June 28, 2013
This is the classic gangster film.
June 23, 2013
I wasn't as impressed with this as most of Cagney's other gangster movies. It seemed longer than it needed to be and mostly just drama. But the acting was awesome.
May 29, 2013
A classic gangster tale It does however, suffer from the censorship codes of it's day and having to have a 'crime doesn't pay' message.
May 9, 2013
THE Gangster picture. Forget anything before or since. This is Cody Jarrett without the madness.
April 20, 2013
It lacks the focus and dramatic depth of many of the many gangster films that would follow (The closing title card summary feels rather quaint), but this early staple of the genre is a real gut-punch of a movie. James Cagney is simply spectacular in the role that made him a star. This is famously one of Martin Scorcese's favorite films, and the influence it had on "Goodfellas," "The Departed," and others is striking. The ending is jaw-dropping.
March 25, 2013
Aside from the grapefruit scene, the story & James Cagney's acting make me want to see "The Public Enemy". Guess I'll have to wait until TCM (Turner Classic Movies) shows it. Very intriguing.
February 22, 2013
The Public Enemy features James Cagney, Jean Harlow, Edward Woods, and Joan Blondel; the dvd is poorly designed though the film itself seems pretty good but on two attempts, the film hasn't played to the end. Cagney is an interesting actor and plays a tough character, unsympathetic as a child, and he gets in trouble though his dad(?) is a police officer who straps him for being bad. He has a brother who is perhaps kinder and more considerate and good natured. The brother goes into the marines, whereas he gets further into crime. 4/10.
February 11, 2013
Cinematically stunning and stylistically enticing, The Public Enemy is a trademark for all gangster films and is on par with the Godfather for the best gangster film ever made.
February 10, 2013
A gem of a crime film..just awe of that making,every single cut makes you dumbstruck! Doesnt need any rating!
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