Public Enemies (2009) Review

Director: Michael Mann

Genre(s): Action, Biography, Crime, Drama

Runtime: 140 minutes

MPAA Rating: R

IMDb Page

Public Enemies is a solid gangster flick that has the misfortune of living in the shadow of the similar Dillinger (1973), which was written and directed by John Milius. The plot of the 2009 picture in question covers the 1930s bank-robbing spree of super-criminal John Dillinger (Johnny Depp). There’s plenty to like about this movie, but just about everything about it was topped back in the 1970s.

The ferocious gunfights that director Michael Mann is known for are very much present here. It probably has as many firearms-per-frame as 1973’s Dillinger and the shootouts are probably more realistic-feeling. The expected highlight in the action department is the firefight at a lodge known as Little Bohemia, but the other sequences of violence work exceptionally well, too.

Perhaps the biggest fault of Public Enemies is how colorless many of the supporting characters are rendered. Sure, the big players in the story get their time to shine, but most of the side members of the John Dillinger gang, for example, don’t stand out at all, which is a stark contrast to how these folks were handled in the aforementioned Dillinger. “Baby Face” Nelson (Stephen Graham) manages to steal the scenes he appears in, though.

Public Enemies is a much more somber and subdued film than 1973’s Dillinger, trying to play things closer to historical fact (although there are still several deviations from what happened in real life). It’s fairly ambitious, but it lacks the flair, pizazz, and print-the-legend audacity that the Dillinger story from John Milius had. I figure that both motion pictures are worth checking out, so make it a Dillinger double feature if you can.

My rating is 7 outta 10.

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