Generally favorable reviews - based on 35 Critics What's this?

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Generally favorable reviews- based on 315 Ratings

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  • Starring: ,
  • Summary: 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 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 made Dillinger America's first Public Enemy Number One. (Universal Pictures) Expand
  • Director: Michael Mann
  • Genre(s): Biography, Drama, History, Thriller, Romance, Crime
  • Rating: R
  • Runtime: 140 min
  • More Details and Credits »
Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 24 out of 35
  2. Negative: 0 out of 35
  1. Reviewed by: Matthew Sorrento
    This is the purest of American narratives, and this, indeed, is one of our finest storytellers.
  2. A grave and beautiful work of art.
  3. 88
    Without ever telling viewers what to think or how to feel, it raises more questions about the corruption of crime and crime fighting than any expose or thesis.
  4. 75
    The problem here is that while some of Mann's work is overwhelmingly great, the sum of it simply never compels.
  5. As filmmaker Michael Mann takes pains to emphasize in his handsome, underheated gangster drama Public Enemies, the gent may have been murderous, but he had style.
  6. 60
    Yet, for all its skill, Public Enemies is not quite a great movie. There’s something missing--a sense of urgency and discovery, a more complicated narrative path, a shrewder, tougher sense of who John Dillinger is.
  7. Reviewed by: Dan Zak
    It's also a double-barreled bummer. There's no excitement in the bank-robbing, no thrill of the chase, no emotion over justice served or thwarted. Depp's Dillinger is neither charming nor despicable, nor does he occupy that delicious gray area between the two. His spree unspools dispassionately, cold as a Colt .380.

See all 35 Critic Reviews

Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 70 out of 118
  2. Negative: 30 out of 118
  1. May 21, 2013
    Honesty is a rare and often sought after trait in any individual, and when we see Johnny Depp portray one of the most notorious criminals in American history, we see exactly what Depression era bank robber John Dillinger was all about, upfront and straight to the point...honest.
    Whether he was a bad person or a man simply following what he was good at is anyones guess, but Michael Mann brilliantly focuses on exactly what Dillinger was known for, holding up banks. We don't need a backstory or a setup for how he took on such a job, we just see what we expect to see, but with Dillinger we see someone who isn't someone we would expect.
    After a daring escape from a penitentiary, Dillinger and his friends, including Red (Jason Clarke) and Harry Pierpont (David Wenham), Dillinger is already setting up his next heist, during a great crime wave in the midst of the Depression.
    Dillinger uses his charm to woo Billie Frechette (Marion Cotillard) who he is entirely honest with in his robbery prowess. She accepts his life and his determination to be with her, while Dillinger and his friends continue to evade the Bureau of Investigation, leading the hunt is Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale) who took down Pretty Boy Floyd and is now on the hunt for Dillinger.
    After several near misses and even a capture, Dillinger brims with confidence at how everyone seems to be at his feet, which Depp perfectly encapsulates. He brings the slick, handsome and straight cut personality to the role that we know from the history of John Dillinger, but with so much more, a scene where he walks freely through the department searching for him is tense, wonderful and also a perfect rendition of how Dillinger liked to live his life. But to quote the film, bank robberies are not getting any easier to pull, and when the Bureau lands down hard, tragedy and blood follow Dillinger wherever he goes. But his only wish is to be with Billie.
    Shot in digital high def, Public Enemies looks truly dazzling, the cinematography added with the intense close-ups create a documentary type feel that is reminiscent of the story that is on show. The big cast includes Channing Tatum, a very underrated yet brilliant turn of J. Edgar Hoover by Billy Crudup, Stephen Dorff, Giovanni Ribisi and Stephen Lang.
    We can only go by what we are told by the history books, but Dillinger was indeed a colourful character nonetheless and Michael Mann has told an excellent story and created a moving and focused film.
  2. May 13, 2013
    I rob banks," John Dillinger would sometimes say by way of introduction. It was the simple truth. That was what he did. For the 13 months between the day he escaped from prison and the night he lay dying in an alley, he robbed banks. It was his lifetime. Michael Mann's "Public Enemies" accepts that stark fact and refuses any temptation to soften it. Dillinger was not a nice man.
    Here is a film that shrugs off the way we depend on myth to sentimentalize our outlaws. There is no interest here about John Dillinger's childhood, his psychology, his sexuality, his famous charm, his Robin Hood legend. He liked sex, but not as much as robbing banks. "He robbed the bankers but let the customers keep their own money." But whose money was in the banks? He kids around with reporters and lawmen, but that was business. He doesn't kid around with the members of his gang. He might have made a very good military leader.
    Johnny Depp and Michael Mann show us that we didn't know all about Dillinger. We only thought we did. Here is an efficient, disciplined, bold, violent man, driven by compulsions the film wisely declines to explain. His gang members loved the money they were making. Dillinger loved planning the next job. He had no exit strategy or retirement plans.
    Dillinger saw a woman he liked, Billie Frechette, played by Marion Cotillard, and courted her, after his fashion. That is, he took her out at night and bought her a fur coat, as he had seen done in the movies; he had no real adult experience before prison. They had sex, but the movie is not much interested. It is all about his vow to show up for her, to protect her. Against what? Against the danger of being his girl. He allows himself a tiny smile when he gives her the coat, and it is the only vulnerability he shows in the movie.
    This is very disciplined film. You might not think it was possible to make a film about the most famous outlaw of the 1930s without clichés and "star chemistry" and a film class screenplay structure, but Mann does it. He is particular about the way he presents Dillinger and Billie. He sees him and her. Not them. They are never a couple. They are their needs. She needs to be protected, because she is so vulnerable. He needs someone to protect, in order to affirm his invincibility.
    Dillinger hates the system, by which he means prisons, that hold people; banks, that hold money, and cops, who stand in his way. He probably hates the government too, but he doesn't think that big. It is him against them, and the bastards will not, can not, win. There's an extraordinary sequence, apparently based on fact, where Dillinger walks into the "Dillinger Bureau" of the Chicago Police Department and strolls around. Invincible. This is not ego. It is a spell he casts on himself.
    The movie is well-researched, based on the book by Bryan Burrough. It even bothers to try to discover Dillinger's speaking style. Depp looks a lot like him. Mann shot on location in the Crown Point jail, scene of the famous jailbreak with the fake gun. He shot in the Little Bohemia Lodge in the same room Dillinger used, and Depp is costumed in clothes to match those the bank robber left behind. Mann redressed Lincoln Avenue on either side of the Biograph Theater, and laid streetcar tracks; I live a few blocks away, and walked over to marvel at the detail. I saw more than you will; unlike some directors, he doesn't indulge in beauty shots to show off the art direction. It's just there.
    This Johnny Depp performance is something else. For once an actor playing a gangster does not seem to base his performance on movies he has seen. He starts cold. He plays Dillinger as a Fact. My friend Jay Robert Nash says 1930s gangsters copied their styles from the way Hollywood depicted them; screenwriters like Ben Hecht taught them how they spoke. Dillinger was a big movie fan; on the last night of his life, he went to see Clark Gable playing a man a lot like him, but he didn't learn much. No wisecracks, no lingo. Just military precision and an edge of steel.
    Christian Bale plays Melvin Purvis in a similar key. He lives to fight criminals. He is a cold realist. He admires his boss, J. Edgar Hoover, but Hoover is a romantic, dreaming of an FBI of clean-cut young accountants in suits and ties who would be a credit to their mothers. After the catastrophe at Little Bohemia (the FBI let Dillinger escape but killed three civilians), Purvis said to hell with it and made J. Edgar import some lawmen from Arizona who had actually been in gunfights.
    Mann is fearless with his research. If I mention the Lady in Red, Anna Sage (Branka Katic), who betrayed Dillinger outside the Biograph when the movie was over, how do you picture her? I do too. We are wrong. In real life she was wearing a white blouse and an orange skirt, and she does in the movie. John Ford once said, When the legend becomes fact, print the legend. This may be a case where he was right.
  3. j30
    Oct 10, 2011
    Just a solid picture. Great cast. Cinematography was great. Micheal Mann has a very distinctive style and it really shows in the film.
  4. Nov 12, 2013
    The producers of this film would like you to think it is a modern version of the Untouchables, but anyone who has seen this film will tell you it's far from it. It's not that Public Enemies was a bad movies, but a lot of people panned it because they expected a lot more from a 100 million dollar movie, starting Johnny Depp and Christian Bale, and they have a point. The story was flawed right from the beginning because the true story behind it really wasn't that interesting. The filmmakers tried to get people to watch it, by saying that Dillinger and Purvis were comparable to Capone and Ness, but that's not true. In reality, they had almost no interaction with each other and in the movie, whenever they were together, all they did was shoot at each other. There wasn't any chemistry between them, because their supposed rivalry was a fictions element added to an otherwise true story. The film should have focused on infamous bank robber, John Dillinger, but instead it focuses on the FBI hunt for him and his life on the run, long after the bulk of his crimes had been committed. Johnny Depp portrays Dillinger in an attempt to go back to being a legitimate actor instead of a Disney puppet, and he fails miserably. This guy can be one hell of actor, when the role fits his personality, but John Dillinger does not. Depp is an emotionless mess of mumbled lines that almost completely destroy the film. Thankfully, Christian Bale was much better and far more interesting. Public Enemies had big expectations, an all-star cast, and a huge budget, but it turned out to be an average film. That's what had people so upset, because had this been an independent film, they would have been okay with it. The fact that Public Enemies was billed as the next Untouchables, but fails to deliver even a single memorable scene just destroys any credibility the film had going for it. Expand
  5. Jan 31, 2011
    Public Enemies is really just another forgettable Gangster movie, with the exception of Johnny Depp there really isn't very much to like about this film. Expand
  6. Nov 16, 2013
    Public Enemies is really just a biography.
    Some were disappointed with the execution of this gangster movie, but it wasn't just a "gangster
    movie" it was the factual biography of John Dillinger. The movie succeeds with accomplishing that aspect, but fails to be very interesting or exciting. The characters aren't very likeable although the performances are great. Just an okay movie that is a factual representation of a notorious gangster. Expand
  7. Aug 31, 2012
    This movie isn't worthy of any score. Horrible directing. It went from weirdly quiet to loud obnoxious gun shooting. I hate it. I could have watched a decent syfy movie for 2 hours. Instead I suffered through this disaster. Expand

See all 118 User Reviews