Public Enemies (2009)

03 July 2009


In the action-thriller Public Enemies, acclaimed filmmaker Michael Mann directs Johnny Depp, Christian Bale and Academy Award® winner Marion Cotillard in the story of legendary Depression-era outlaw John Dillinger (Depp)—the charismatic bank robber whose lightning raids made him the number one target of J. Edgar Hoover’s fledgling FBI and its top agent, Melvin Purvis (Bale), and a folk hero to much of the downtrodden public. No one could stop Dillinger and his gang.  No jail could hold him.  His charm and audacious jailbreaks endeared him to almost everyone—from his girlfriend Billie Frechette (Cotillard) to an American public who had no sympathy for the banks that had plunged the country into the Depression.  

But while the adventures of Dillinger’s gang, thrilled many, Hoover (Billy Crudup) hit on the idea of exploiting the outlaw’s capture as a way to elevate his Bureau of Investigation into the national police force that became the FBI.  He made Dillinger America’s first Public Enemy Number One and sent in Purvis, the dashing “Clark Gable of the FBI.’’  

However, Dillinger and his gang outwitted and outgunned Purvis’ men in wild chases and shootouts.  Only after importing a crew of Western ex-lawmen (newly baptised as agents) and orchestrating epic betrayals—from the infamous “Lady in Red’’ to the Chicago crime boss Frank Nitti—were Purvis, the FBI and their new crew of gunfighters able to close in on Dillinger. 

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our review

"gritty and engaging piece of cinema which included an outstanding performance from the one and only, Mr Johnny Depp"

I wasn't familiar with John Dillinger prior to seeing Public Enemies, history was never my strong suit and I don't recall studying American history, so for those of you that are unsure, Public Enemies is a gritty and well made film chronicling the life of American folk hero John Dillinger.

Johnny Depp portrays John Dillinger, a suave, cocky and somewhat arrogant criminal mastermind, who in 1930's Chicago crippled the banks with cleverly orchestrated bank robberies. One thing that we are all probably guilty of is forgetting just how good Johnny Depp is, he is very good at portraying the villain with heart. Regardless of how charismatic Dillinger was in real life, Depp makes him a wholeheartedly likable rogue, while Bale's intense performance as haunted FBI chief Melvin Purvis comes across as the villain at times. It's not an uncommon switch to relate to the bad guy, but I'm not convinced the balanced worked here. Academy Award winning french actress Marion Cotillard plays Billie Frechette, Dillingers' love interest, she is equally brilliant with her portrayal.

Although the supporting cast gave excellent performances "Public Enemies" focuses on Dillinger and Billie so much so that the supporting characters get lost with meaning and the sub plots have too many holes.

Michael Mann puts forth an earnest effort but alas this is not one of his best work; either with screenplay or direction. The film lacks suspense and drama. On a plus point, he does a lot of research that brings a rarely seen realism to the era. The setting of this is 1930's America, this has been expertly recreated by the film making team, some of the locations were restored for the film, (the Biograph Theatre in Chicago, and the 'safe haven' Little Bohemia ranch).

In these familiar financial times, Michael Mann has done a brilliant job in bringing the memory of Dillinger to cinema. So all in all and forgetting the misleading title, I found Public Enemies to be a gritty and engaging piece of cinema which included an outstanding performance from the one and only, Mr Johnny Depp.

extra goodies
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film information
video media
london premiere
  • Venue
  • Empire Leicester Square, London
  • Celebrities in Attendence
  • Johnny Depp
  • Marion Cotillard
  • Jamie Campbell
  • Jenni Falconer
  • Amber Le Bon
  • Branka Katic
  • Amelle Berrabah
  • Premiere Date
  • 29 June 2009