The Public Enemy Reviews

  • Feb 16, 2021

    This film is 90 years old this May and remains, in some scenes, just as powerful and shocking as anything in Goodfellas.

    This film is 90 years old this May and remains, in some scenes, just as powerful and shocking as anything in Goodfellas.

  • Jan 19, 2021

    My favourite film of all time. It's timeless and James Cagney steals the film with his witty, yet nonchalant performance. I will always be in the mood to watch Tom Powers do what he can to rise to the top while also hiding behind his ma's skirt.

    My favourite film of all time. It's timeless and James Cagney steals the film with his witty, yet nonchalant performance. I will always be in the mood to watch Tom Powers do what he can to rise to the top while also hiding behind his ma's skirt.

  • Jan 06, 2021

    A true granddaddy of the gangster genre. Perhaps the story hasn't aged well, but a great performance is a great performance and Cagney absolutely nails it. The climactic scene is still powerful 90 years later.

    A true granddaddy of the gangster genre. Perhaps the story hasn't aged well, but a great performance is a great performance and Cagney absolutely nails it. The climactic scene is still powerful 90 years later.

  • Dec 14, 2020

    Above all of its other feats, The Public Enemy innovated by cutting down on the morality in the crime genre and instead sticking to the remorselessness. Little Caesar may have crafted or polished many newly coined gangster tropes, but it was still a somewhat sentimental morality tale, with a justified, prolonged comeuppance for the title character's misdeeds. The Public Enemy, on the other hand, is much more bleak and overtly violent, where gangster characters are defined by their pitiless nature and yes, may suffer for their actions, but just as well could fall victim to chance and circumstance. I love the whole premise of a guy walking into a hardware store to buy a pistol without any preamble or custom, the salesman gladly showing him a gun as his customer loads it with cartridges he just so happened to have brought with him, then being surprised at a holdup; the scene in which a pair of gangsters stroll into a stable unannounced to buy a horse that had recently killed their friend, only to shoot it in the stall while the stablemaster looks on in shock is a classic as well. Mario Puzo clearly used this source for a few general cues when writing The Godfather, and the practical effects deserve some note too, like a disintegrating wall crumbling under machine gun fire. An early gangster flick with a timeless Cagney performance that helped solidify what the audience was to expect from future outings. (4/5)

    Above all of its other feats, The Public Enemy innovated by cutting down on the morality in the crime genre and instead sticking to the remorselessness. Little Caesar may have crafted or polished many newly coined gangster tropes, but it was still a somewhat sentimental morality tale, with a justified, prolonged comeuppance for the title character's misdeeds. The Public Enemy, on the other hand, is much more bleak and overtly violent, where gangster characters are defined by their pitiless nature and yes, may suffer for their actions, but just as well could fall victim to chance and circumstance. I love the whole premise of a guy walking into a hardware store to buy a pistol without any preamble or custom, the salesman gladly showing him a gun as his customer loads it with cartridges he just so happened to have brought with him, then being surprised at a holdup; the scene in which a pair of gangsters stroll into a stable unannounced to buy a horse that had recently killed their friend, only to shoot it in the stall while the stablemaster looks on in shock is a classic as well. Mario Puzo clearly used this source for a few general cues when writing The Godfather, and the practical effects deserve some note too, like a disintegrating wall crumbling under machine gun fire. An early gangster flick with a timeless Cagney performance that helped solidify what the audience was to expect from future outings. (4/5)

  • Nov 23, 2020

    A common thing I'm noticing about gangster films from this time period is that they can be more interesting as historical document than as interesting and compelling stories. I loved the feel of Scarface and connected to it really well, but I had my issues with Little Caesar. I'd say this film falls somewhere in the middle of those two films. While watching it, I found myself less taken in by the gangster elements of it (though, I still enjoyed them) and more impressed by the way Matt and, especially, Tom's participation in Paddy Ryan's gang had on their lives. Tom not only experienced conflict with his various romantic partners, but also with his straight-laced brother Mike, who disapproved of both his lifestyle and how he lied to his mother about how he obtained money. His mother, misinformed about Tom's involvement in Ryan's gang, was confused and saddened by Mike's disapproval of Tom, further representing how their family was torn apart. I also appreciated the gang elements quite a bit such as the first act's depiction of Tom's and Matt's rise as gangsters, the visually impressive shootout in the rain, or the final minute (even though I saw it coming). I still appreciated the family drama bits the most and some of the gang-related scenes didn't matter much to me, but I still appreciated some of the imagery in those sequences. Overall, this film was pretty solid.

    A common thing I'm noticing about gangster films from this time period is that they can be more interesting as historical document than as interesting and compelling stories. I loved the feel of Scarface and connected to it really well, but I had my issues with Little Caesar. I'd say this film falls somewhere in the middle of those two films. While watching it, I found myself less taken in by the gangster elements of it (though, I still enjoyed them) and more impressed by the way Matt and, especially, Tom's participation in Paddy Ryan's gang had on their lives. Tom not only experienced conflict with his various romantic partners, but also with his straight-laced brother Mike, who disapproved of both his lifestyle and how he lied to his mother about how he obtained money. His mother, misinformed about Tom's involvement in Ryan's gang, was confused and saddened by Mike's disapproval of Tom, further representing how their family was torn apart. I also appreciated the gang elements quite a bit such as the first act's depiction of Tom's and Matt's rise as gangsters, the visually impressive shootout in the rain, or the final minute (even though I saw it coming). I still appreciated the family drama bits the most and some of the gang-related scenes didn't matter much to me, but I still appreciated some of the imagery in those sequences. Overall, this film was pretty solid.

  • Jul 30, 2020

    The story of the rise and fall of prohibition-era Tom Powers. The Public Enemy currently sits at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. I was excited to dive in to this movie, but I started drowning as soon as I hit the first ten minutes. And, no, it didn't get better. Acting: 7 Beginning: 4 The beginning is extremely slow. It was very hard for me to get engaged or even stay that way. I got out of the first ten minutes thinking, "If this is any indication of how the rest of the movie is going to be, count me out." Characters: 2 Cinematography/Visuals: 10 Conflict: 5 For a gangster movie, I was really hoping for a lot more action. The gun fights aren't bad, but they happen so few and far between it makes the rest of the movie really boring. I never felt any stakes at any point with any of the characters either so the conflict is mediocre by comparison. Entertainment Value: 5 I enjoyed watching a part of cinematic history. I respected that aspect at least. Overall, though, I was mildly entertained at best. I felt there were more lulls than high spots. Memorability: 6 Pace: 4 I was bored out of my mind for most of the movie. Again, I expected more from a gangster movie. Too much talking, way too much exposition. The movie drags like a sloth. Plot: 8 The story is solid. The execution was weak. There are a number of different ways this story could have been approached without there being so much repeated dialogue. Tom Powers has an interesting story that happened to get lost in translation with all of this. Resolution: 2 I won't spoil the ending, but it did nothing for the main character or his story overall. I felt we reached a climax where I had no sympathy for Tom because they had done little to nothing to that point to make me give a shit about him. Considering how bad the beginning was already, this was absolutely horrible. Overall: 53 Do I think The Public Enemy is a bad movie? Clearly, but I will say it's not without a handful of shining moments. The camerawork is phenomenal particularly during gun fights. However, because I could never get to a point where I rooted for the main character, it made the movie as a whole hard to enjoy for me.

    The story of the rise and fall of prohibition-era Tom Powers. The Public Enemy currently sits at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. I was excited to dive in to this movie, but I started drowning as soon as I hit the first ten minutes. And, no, it didn't get better. Acting: 7 Beginning: 4 The beginning is extremely slow. It was very hard for me to get engaged or even stay that way. I got out of the first ten minutes thinking, "If this is any indication of how the rest of the movie is going to be, count me out." Characters: 2 Cinematography/Visuals: 10 Conflict: 5 For a gangster movie, I was really hoping for a lot more action. The gun fights aren't bad, but they happen so few and far between it makes the rest of the movie really boring. I never felt any stakes at any point with any of the characters either so the conflict is mediocre by comparison. Entertainment Value: 5 I enjoyed watching a part of cinematic history. I respected that aspect at least. Overall, though, I was mildly entertained at best. I felt there were more lulls than high spots. Memorability: 6 Pace: 4 I was bored out of my mind for most of the movie. Again, I expected more from a gangster movie. Too much talking, way too much exposition. The movie drags like a sloth. Plot: 8 The story is solid. The execution was weak. There are a number of different ways this story could have been approached without there being so much repeated dialogue. Tom Powers has an interesting story that happened to get lost in translation with all of this. Resolution: 2 I won't spoil the ending, but it did nothing for the main character or his story overall. I felt we reached a climax where I had no sympathy for Tom because they had done little to nothing to that point to make me give a shit about him. Considering how bad the beginning was already, this was absolutely horrible. Overall: 53 Do I think The Public Enemy is a bad movie? Clearly, but I will say it's not without a handful of shining moments. The camerawork is phenomenal particularly during gun fights. However, because I could never get to a point where I rooted for the main character, it made the movie as a whole hard to enjoy for me.

  • May 17, 2020

    Cagney's best, iconic.. one of the best gangster flicks of all-time

    Cagney's best, iconic.. one of the best gangster flicks of all-time

  • Mar 04, 2020

    While I understand that this is an important piece of film history, I feel as if the film hasn't aged too well. Its so fast paced that some of the character interactions become laughably bade

    While I understand that this is an important piece of film history, I feel as if the film hasn't aged too well. Its so fast paced that some of the character interactions become laughably bade

  • Oct 25, 2019

    In the film, "The Public Enemy" realistic acting, complex character arcs, The Great Depression, and WW1 all add up to tell an amazing story of tragedy. The film uses amazing acting to make the viewers feel for the cast and make them feel as though this is all real. This is done in many scenes such as when Cagney is punched in the mouth in real life and loses a tooth but still manages to keep composure. Cagney keeps his calm and continues the scene through the pain of losing a tooth in an effort to make the film seem more realistic. Complex character arcs also play a major key in the story of Tom and Matt's life throughout the film. Tom is seen as an innocent man who may do bad things, but ultimately need to if he wants to make money in this world of poverty. He develops into a murderer and a gangster after going through many events such as killing police officers and fighting other gangs. The Great Depression is conveyed thoroughly throughout the entire plot and is the central reason for all the suffering. This is displayed in the beginning when Tom turns to crime due to needing the money in the bad economic situation everyone was in during the time period. The Great Depression pushes him into crime and creates a monster out of him and leads him in the wrong direction all the way until his demise. WW1 is also shown in the film through Toms's older brother, Mike and also leads up to The Great Depression. Tom's older brother Mike has a personality that is developed through being a soldier and learning morals, unlike his brother. WW1 plays a decent role throughout the movie and after it leads up to The Great Depression and they both can be blamed for problems during the time. Overall the film uses amazing acting, complex character arcs, The Great Depression, and WW1 to portray an amazing story.

    In the film, "The Public Enemy" realistic acting, complex character arcs, The Great Depression, and WW1 all add up to tell an amazing story of tragedy. The film uses amazing acting to make the viewers feel for the cast and make them feel as though this is all real. This is done in many scenes such as when Cagney is punched in the mouth in real life and loses a tooth but still manages to keep composure. Cagney keeps his calm and continues the scene through the pain of losing a tooth in an effort to make the film seem more realistic. Complex character arcs also play a major key in the story of Tom and Matt's life throughout the film. Tom is seen as an innocent man who may do bad things, but ultimately need to if he wants to make money in this world of poverty. He develops into a murderer and a gangster after going through many events such as killing police officers and fighting other gangs. The Great Depression is conveyed thoroughly throughout the entire plot and is the central reason for all the suffering. This is displayed in the beginning when Tom turns to crime due to needing the money in the bad economic situation everyone was in during the time period. The Great Depression pushes him into crime and creates a monster out of him and leads him in the wrong direction all the way until his demise. WW1 is also shown in the film through Toms's older brother, Mike and also leads up to The Great Depression. Tom's older brother Mike has a personality that is developed through being a soldier and learning morals, unlike his brother. WW1 plays a decent role throughout the movie and after it leads up to The Great Depression and they both can be blamed for problems during the time. Overall the film uses amazing acting, complex character arcs, The Great Depression, and WW1 to portray an amazing story.

  • Sep 24, 2019

    Maybe i am not a great fan of the actor who played the main character

    Maybe i am not a great fan of the actor who played the main character