Public Enemies tells the story of famed bank robbing gangster, John Dillinger (Johnny Depp). More specifically, it focuses on the manhunt and eventual capture and death of Dillinger and his crew of criminal deviants.
FBI agent Melvin Puris (Christian Bale) is determined to bring the crime spree caused by Dillinger to a screeching halt. He personally shoots Pretty Boy Floyd (Channing Tatum) and Floyd becomes the first casualty in Dillinger’s army of men. Having had many opportunities to lock Dillinger away for good, Puris is always outsmarted by the gangster.
With friends on the “inside,” Dillinger escapes from jail not once, but twice. After his first escape, he meets Billie Frechette (Marion Cotillard), a woman who is mesmerized, but also wary of Dillinger’s high status and criminal background. They begin a love affair that is more dangerous than Frechette can even imagine.
Dillinger is caught, once again, in a tiny apartment he is sharing with Frechette. After a short time behind bars, he escapes again. Many of his men have died by this time, so he must be even more careful in terms of his hiding places and the people he has contact with. It takes a long time before he is able to be reunited with Frechette, as the FBI have staked out her apartment.
Finally reunited, the couple plan for their future, only to have their reunion cut short. With Dillinger waiting in the car, Frechette is apprehended by federal agents inside a seedy bar. She is tortured in the hopes that she will give up information leading to the capture of her boyfriend.
Dillinger remains a wanted man as he tries to find a way to make it in a world where his connections have become few and far between. The people he trusted may not have his back in the way they once had and it becomes his undoing.
Depp can make any film watchable. Most Americans know something about the story of Dillinger, so most of the events were not shocking. The movie was a bit too long, at just over two hours. The pacing of the film could have been sped up as well.
The props from the film definitely added to the realistic quality of the time period. The cars, guns and overall set design were integral to feeling like you were in the 1930?s when these events took place.
This film had an extremely large cast of mostly supporting players. Aside from the main supporting characters that was made up of the FBI and Dillinger’s band of brothers, it was enjoyable to see Carey Mulligan, LOST’s Emilie DeRavin and Giovanni Ribisi in smaller roles.
Dillinger’s life and death were events that begged to be told through the art of cinema. A self-confident leader who never feared death, his story is intriguing. This film, although slow at times, is a well-acted dramatic tale.