Public Enemies - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Public Enemies Reviews

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October 8, 2016
Watching this again on the small screen even without the benefit of HD it has the same top drawer I don't care about the critics genius that Miami Vice displayed. A flick to see again and again because of the atmospheric score and mesmerising handheld camerawork. Sure it's measured and cold. Just like the historical events.
½ October 2, 2016
Starring Johnny Depp and Christian Bale, this gangster movie is based on a real life notorious gangster from about 80 years ago: John Dillinger.

Overall, very entertaining and brings Dillinger colorfully to life. Seemingly a Robin Hood of his time.
September 5, 2016
Film would be generic even back in the 1930's with James Cagney and Edward G. Robinson, but it's one of Johnny Depp's strongest performances
½ August 30, 2016
There was a good film in here somewhere, but I just couldn't find it!
½ August 22, 2016
Pinning Johnny Depp into the gangster film genre, Public Enemies sounded like a powerful star vehicle.

Public Enemies is so obsessed with the idea of John Dillinger that it neglects the actual person that he was. Short on characterization, Public Enemies keeps John Dillinger as a mysterious enigma; a larger-than-life legend who is represented more as an elusive ideal than any kind of human being. While this helps to contribute to the large legacy of the man, the fact that the film puts such a heavy emphasis on the fact that its central character is John Dillinger yet comes up this short on characterization is really disappointing. What's more disappointing is precisely how much the film focuses on the character without doing all that much with him, particularly considering that there is an entire world in economic depression around him which nobody seemed to pick up on. And considering that Public Enemies is such an extensively long film which moves at such a glacial pace, this can prove really frustrating. Luckily enough Johnny Depp brings one of his best performances to the film which prevents him from becoming just another star vehicle for the man and helps to transcend the shortage of characterization.
Nevertheless, Public Enemies stands out among a large crowd of crime films simply because of the rich romanticisation in the film. The emphasis Michael Mann puts on John Dillinger's bold nature through Johnny Depp's charm hypnotizes audiences into loving him, providing a perspective on the anti-establishment feeling plaguing America during The Great Depression. During the time of the story's setting this lead to media promotion of ridiculous bravado and encouraged the FBI to really declare him as "Public Enemy No. 1". This gives audiences a perspective as to precisely what built the legacy behind John Dillinger. The screenplay doesn't break down its barriers, but there is a lot of credibility in the way Public Enemies paints John Dillinger as a charming anti-hero without neglecting the sociopathic nature of his violence. And on top of that, the dialogue is very rich.
Visually, Public Enemies is a magnificent experience in the art of style. In his most stylish venture in years, Michael Mann crafts a magnificent spectacle of imagery through his use of on-location scenery and stunning cinematography. Using a brilliantly versatile collection of angles and techniques, the cinematography in Public Enemies captures every little detail with steady movement to keep the atmosphere in a state of controlled intensity. The cinematography has a very western motif to it which matches the steady flow of the narrative without dramatization faults. There is a powerful variation between use of long shots to establish story context and close-ups to provide intense focus on the characters. The movements of the camera are also firm regardless of if they are slow or swift, never reaching an extent of being too shaky. But what's most notorious is the fact that the cinematography uses top-notch high definition camera quality most of the time yet maintains a slight blur during many of the swift movements occurring during the intense scenes. All this reaches an endeavour in the way Public Enemies depicts its violence in such a raw format. Without hiding anything or going excessive, Public Enemies makes use of some brilliantly stylish shootouts in which the cinematography plays a key part in drawing in atmosphere. The sound effects boom heavy and dominate the echoes while the muzzle flares brighten up the darkened colour scheme with startling power, and the extensive use of squibs lays down a practical effect. In a world where cinema is largely dominated by the use of CGI, Michael Mann's more conservative approach to his work proves to harken back to the glorious days of raw cinematic violence in the gangster genre and stands out amid the crowd of contemporary crime films. Elliot Goldenthal helps this out with an effectively dramatic musical score which is subtle yet emotionally powerful at the correct moments.
And matching Michael Mann's eye for style with a brain for character, Johnny Depp contributes a truly brilliant spectacle of acting. You can tell within a few seconds of Johnny Depp's face being on screen that he is taking on a significantly different role in this film. It's because Public Enemies is not a Johnny Depp vehicle, it is a genuine dramatic piece. The man's such a natural charmer that his charisma is impossible to miss either way, but with no makeup to hide behind this time he has to rely on playing an actual character. He manages to get it perfectly since he grasps the charming sophistication of John Dillinger with an underlying tone of intimidation which is never made explicit. Johnny Depp conjures a real romanticisation of the iconic gangster and gets audiences rooting for him simply for his restrained nature in a world of more aggressive people. Johnny Depp proves his worth as a genuine actor in Public Enemies by playing a character that channels his natural charms without being buried beneath extensive makeup, thus giving the actor a chance to work in drama, crime and romance all within the same narrative. His performance is one of serious lasting value.
Christian Bale is a predictably powerful presence. Given that the man has a legacy for extremely intense performances, the role of Melvin Purvis seems ideal as it is able to capitalize on this. Christian Bale contributes a raw and aggressive nature to the character which emphasizes the insecure paranoia of the American government in their pursuit of John Dillinger. Marion Cotillard also lends a sympathetic supporting performance since she has a gentle spirit to her at some moments and a ferocious dramatic edge to her at others, mediating herself extremely well over the course of the story.

Public Enemies may idolize John Dillinger too much to humanize him well enough to craft an appropriately in-depth story, but the film is nevertheless a glorious testament to Michael Mann's visual brilliance in both period detail and action, as well as Johnny Depp's extremely charismatic talents.
August 11, 2016
Very long and uninteresting docudrama about an FBI agent on the trail of the notorious gangster John Dillinger. Michael Mann, whose "Collateral" a few years back was a masterpiece, misses again for the second straight time (his adaptation of "Miami Vice " was pitiful) with this Johnny Depp feature.
August 9, 2016
Another movie I was very much looking forward to seeing, but was left a bit disappointed. The cast and acting is very good, but the story is not engaging enough.
July 17, 2016
It's nice to see Depp in a role where you can (*&^ing recognize him. He's great as Dillinger in this underrated crime drama.
July 7, 2016
Imminently forgettable.
June 18, 2016
"Public Enemies" stands as a run-of-the-mill gangster drama with fine performances, though its poor craft and a standard, uncompelling story is ill fitting of the fascinating historical figure at its center.
½ June 4, 2016
100125: Now that's my kind of film. Lots of shoot outs and other action. Bad ass gangsters vs sometimes even badder ass cops. Cool Tommy Guns with endless magazines and 45s a plenty. Wonder if it was really anything like this? Fun watch.
March 20, 2016
Grade: B-
Rating: 7.0/10
½ March 15, 2016
Epic gangster movie that follows the legend of John Dillinger, with a charismatic performance from Johnny Depp. Some aspects of the story are historically inaccurate and overly romanticised, well that's Hollywood for you. A slow-burner but the final shoot-out is breathtaking.
February 28, 2016
Loosely based on Byran Burrough's book "Public Enemies: America's Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI" Michael Mann's punchy and intense adaptation is a fascinating and sticking retrospective into the life and times of the depression era's most notorious outlaw.

John Dillinger (Johnny Depp) is a prison escapee and charismatic bank robber whose lightning raids and Robin Hood style values made him a folk hero too much of the 1930's downtrodden public.

With the cocky belief that everyone else exists exclusively because he does, Dillinger becomes the centre of gravity. However, through all his Bravado the always in control Dillinger falls obsessively in love for a half French/half Indian but completely naive cloak checker Evelyn "Billie" Frechette (Marion Cotillard).

Although Dillinger's initial demands for Billie's affections are rebuffed, his alluring pull and charming declaration of "I like baseball, movies, good clothes, whiskey, fast cars... and you. What else you need to know?" eventually makes Billie his.

The pair and Dillinger's gang safely continue their escapades due to the polite protection of hostages and values to only steal the banks money aid in the public at larges' willingness to provide asylum and hinders the police's effort

When the gang's exuberant state line crossing exploits escalate them to the status of cult legends, Dillinger quickly becomes the prime target for the fledgling Bureau of Investigation headed by J. Edgar Hoover (Billy Crudup) and its top agent Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale).

The inclusion of sociopathic and unpredictable Baby Face Nelson (Stephen Graham) makes Hoover's highly administrative driven bureau desperate for their apprehension. Hoover devises a plan to recruit real strong arm gun-slinging lawmen from Arizona under the guise of aiding their efforts in the pursuit to elevate the bureau into a national police force leading to the birth of the FBI.

Director Michael Mann's faithful recreation of the 1930's settings is fraught by his obsession with digital camerawork. Unlike celluloid, HD video isn't flattering or forgiving, and the abundance of superfluous details captured shows every physical and cinematic flaw.

Mann's passion and preoccupation for surface texture whilst utilising handheld cameras cerebrally over stimulates viewers. The headache of 'Shaking camera syndrome' and need to explore the 'gritty look' ultimately detracts not enhances the images which seem lost in translation in relation to the era of the piece.

Dillinger's self-created folk hero status is effortlessly recreated by Depp's graceful, cheeky and in-love-with-his-own-legend portrayal. Depp's understated and undeniable magnetism carries Christian Bales somewhat less wooden but still one-dimensional Wile E. Coyote-eskque chilling pursuer Melvin Pervis.

One of Mann's main flaws is his apparent disregard for the need of character background and exploration. Although his painstakingly thorough research for visual integrity is admirable and shooting on location at the original site of the Little Bohemia Lodge and the Crown Point jail is wonderfully authentic, his attention to the human side leaves the film lacking that true emotional connection.

Mann is highly particular about presenting particular relationship styles. Dillinger and Billie are a 'him' and 'her' not a 'them', they are never portrayed as a couple and the story is centralised around their need for each other not their love for each other. For her vulnerability she needs protection and to receive affirmation of his invincibility he needs to protect. The actors portray this tone perfectly, however to the viewer it seem a little hollow.

From the onset it looked as thought it was going to be an ensemble supporting cast including Stephen Dorff, Channing Tatum, David Wenham as well as a brief cameo from Clarke Gable (clipped from Manhattan Melodrama). Sadly however, Depp and Bale have no connection and their onscreen hero and villain personas share very little screen time.

One great scene that due to its content must be one of those fictional Hollywood gems finds Dillinger casually strolling into the Bureau's half empty Anti-Dillinger office and brazenly wonders around looking at pinned up photo's and documents about his fallen and apprehended gang members, he even has the galls to ask a cop who just won the baseball game on the radio.

Verdict: For all his research efforts, Mann's most recent time piece lacks both visual and historical cohesion. This film is carried squarely on the back of its actors and its time frame, however with that in mind, it works. The overconfident swaggering Dillinger takes audiences hostage and commands complete attention and with Depp holding the gun, I'm in.

Published: The Queanbeyan Age
Date of Publication: 07/08/2009
½ February 9, 2016
Great gangster movie and such a great cast as well. It did however leave me wanting more throughout the movie. It did get slightly dull here and there, but the violence and action kept me entertained. John Dillinger was greatly portrayed.
December 31, 2015
Nothing much to right about - more along the lines of other bios of the Great Depression era. The dull, slow moving, lethargically paced story is not helped by the equally dull and insipid dialogues. Not even Bale and Depp could help the uninspiring direction.
Ok, if nothing better to do.
December 28, 2015
Above average acting for a below average movie. Depp gives a decent performance along with Bale and a smattering of others but the story line just doesn't slow down to let you catch up
½ December 13, 2015
quality stuff, but not really engaging
½ December 9, 2015
Mixed with action and suspense Public Enemies is a good movie that had the potential to be great. Two of the biggest names in acting square off in a cops and robbers tale about the most famous bank robber in American History certainly sounds like a concept that would blow me away. Despite its flaws I still did enjoy the Michael Mann directed film. Mann's penchant for authentic gun battles is another major draw to this film. I don't know what he uses for sound during his action scenes but his gun battles always sound so authentic, and it is once against fantastic in Public Enemies. Bale and Depp both shine in their roles as I knew they would. So why did I not give this movie another star or half a star ? Well there are some sequences throughout the movie that are brutally slow and long winded. I understand the reasoning for it, but I felt they spent way too much time on Dillinger's relationship with his girl played by Marion Cottilard. I wanted a movie about Dillinger and his gang of bank robbers, for me personally anyway, I did not need a love story thrown in there as well. Sure, they could have spent a little time on it, but I just thought it was overly focused on. Other than that, this is a good action flick and I would recommend it to any action fan or fans of crime films.
Super Reviewer
½ November 28, 2015
I think that enough time has passed for us to recognize that Mann's use of digital here wasn't the huge mistake everyone (including myself) thought it was back in 2009, but rather a highly influential decision that predicted how most of us would consume imagery. On top of that, the film features Mann's typically rich use of archetypal cop and criminal characters. I think Depp was born to play Dillinger.
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