There have many gangster movies made based on real life events. Dating back to the 50s and 60s, this genre has something for everyone. Living vicariously through the cool characters for guys; wanting to be their leading lady for the gals and feeling like you’ve gotten away with something for watching a gangster movie for the kids. Arguably one of the master templates for making gangster movies would be that of The Untouchables. Violence, cops versus the mob and in color to say the least. In this gangster based on real life results, Michal Mann teams with acting vet Johnny Depp to produce Public Enemies.
Johnny Depp plays John Dillinger, one of history’s most notorious criminals. When bank robbers need advice on how to rob banks, they go to this guy. Him and his team of fellow criminals; Homer Van Meter (Stephen Dorff), John “Red” Hamilton (Jason Clarke) just to name a couple along with many more rob banks and do it very, very well. The movie begins with a sense of misdirection with the apparent arrival of a new inmate at the prison where Dillinger is being held. It in turn becomes a jail break to spring him and some more of his gang. He is pursued throughout the movie by FBI Chief Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale). He heads the FBI team created to find and put away Dillinger and his bank robbing squad. Meeting and presenting her with some of the smoothest moves put on a girl by a bank robber, Dillinger makes Billie Frechette (Marin Cotillard) his one and only main gal. The two are in love instantly and inseparable throughout the film.
The story, helped written by Mann, follows Dillinger during the Great Depression and birth of the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover’s (Billy Crudup) move to expand what was his police agency into a national entity. The film is an adaptation of Bryan Burrough’s book, Public Enemies: America’s Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933-34. The acting performances in this film were very well done across the board with the best of course coming from Mr. Depp. But, unfortunately the acting could not carry this film alone. Understanding that this film was done off of true events, I will cut it some slack. However, some parts were kind of boring and dragged out a bit. Also, I imagine that this was true in real life, it is difficult to believe some parts such as Dillinger going about his social life so out in the open. This is mostly probably due to the public idolizing of real life gangsters more than celebrities and athletes back then.
The costumes and 1930s set were very believable and flawless. From the getaway cars to the tommy gun shootouts, 1930s America was alive again. Compared to today, it was kind of nice to see everyone dressed up all the time. Exactly how many suits did you need to own back then to keep up with everyone?
Overall, Public Enemies was a good film. I think the 2 hour and 23 minute length was more than what was needed to tell this story, but other than that, I recommend it if you are really in gangster movies. I give Public Enemies “3 well planned bank robberies out of 5”. “How long does it take you to run through a bank? About 1 minute… 40 seconds… Flat”