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Public Enemies

July 11, 2009

public enemies poster

Public Enemies, starring Johnny Depp, is based on the non-fiction book of the same name by Bryan Burrough.  The movie focuses on John Dillinger, played by Depp, during 1933 and 1934, and the FBI’s efforts to catch him.  Dillinger was a gangster who robbed banks and police stations and was responsible for the deaths of a lot of people, yet he was a bit of a folk hero at the time, and the movie did portray him as somewhat of a sympathetic character.

I was amazed at how much Dillinger and his associates could and did go out in public – to nightclubs, restaurants, movies, etc.  I don’t think that would be possible for “Public Enemy #1” today because they’d be too recognizable with the internet and 24 hour news channels.

I talked to my mom about this movie after I saw it since she grew up in the time and place the events portrayed took place.  I told her that I didn’t understand why Dillinger was portrayed as a sympathetic character and she said you needed to lived at the time to get it.  She said people felt like gangsters were forced into what they were doing because of the economic times, and Dillinger never stole from individuals and was always a big tipper.  When I mentioned that it seemed like the police often used dozens of bullets to kill someone when one or two would have sufficed, she replied that there was a lot of anger, frustration, and embarrassment on the part of the police because gangsters, such as Dillinger, kept escaping and eluding them.

Public Enemies is long, but overall, I enjoyed it.  I do think it could have been shortened and still been a good movie.  I thought Johnny Depp was great and a lot of fun to look at, but Christian Bale’s (he played the FBI agent assigned to hunt Dillinger down) Southern accent didn’t work for me.  After seeing the movie, I’ve added the book to my wish list.

42 Comments leave one →
  1. July 11, 2009 6:24 am

    I’ve read some good reviews on this one.

  2. July 11, 2009 6:41 am

    Mmm…Johnny Depp’s looking good in this one. LOL I’m not really a movie person, but this one sounds interesting.


  3. July 11, 2009 7:01 am

    Have you read Legs by William Kennedy? It’s set at around the same time, and it’s also based on the life of a real gangster. And the thing is, he’s sort of sympathetic too, for some of the same social reasons your mother pointed out.

  4. July 11, 2009 7:49 am

    I don’t watch movies, but I might have to check into the book.

  5. stacybuckeye permalink
    July 11, 2009 8:25 am

    Great review and insight from your mother.
    I don’t usually enjoy movies about gangsters, but will add this to my Netflix when it’s avaailable. I can’t pass up a few hours watching Johnny and Christian!

  6. July 11, 2009 8:49 am

    Great review. I’m not much of a movie goer, but maybe I’ll check it out when I can get it from Netflix. I like Depp and Bale!

  7. July 11, 2009 9:42 am

    I sort of had a hard time keeping track of who was who during the gunfights. All those overcoats, fedoras, tommyguns and dark cars sort of became a blur to me and I just had to wait until it was over and see who was left standing. I thought it was a bit too long too. I looked up some of the characters on Wikipedia afterwards, the guy that Giovanni Ribisi played was interesting, he was part of Ma Barker’s gang, super smart with a photographic memory, and he taught Charles Manson how to play the guitar. (Alvin Karpis) Weird, huh?

  8. July 11, 2009 9:53 am

    I love Johnny Depp and can’t wait to see this one. Love the added info!

  9. July 11, 2009 10:41 am

    I’m glad you liked it! My husband is threatening to drag me out to see it today!

  10. July 11, 2009 11:23 am

    How cool that you could discuss this with your Mom and hear her perspective! I used to watch a lot of gangster movies but have gotten away from it, but I think I’ll get this when it comes out on DVD. Your review was great!

  11. July 11, 2009 11:43 am

    I want to see this! Love Johnny Depp.

  12. July 11, 2009 11:46 am

    That is an interesting exchange you had with your mom! I wouldn’t have thought about it like that. Kind of Robin Hood-ish actually! 🙂 And Johnny is ever so nice to look at . . . Big sigh.


  13. July 11, 2009 12:17 pm

    I’ve lived all my life in Indiana, and, in fact, the next town over is Peru, where Dillinger hid out or escaped or something. They have a festival for it, I think. He isn’t exactly unpopular around here, even today. My brother named his pit bull Dillinger.

    It’s cool that you can go to your mom and discuss the movie like that 🙂

  14. July 11, 2009 1:58 pm

    I love the insights from your mom. I wish the movie wasn’t R. I’ll look into the book though.

  15. July 11, 2009 2:42 pm

    Yum, Johnny Depp!

    America has a long tradition of sympathizing with criminals. In the early 1900’s it was pretty normal for average citizens to attack the guards of a prison or work gang and release all the prisoners. Then you also have the whole Robin Hood-esque appeal of people like John Dillinger or Jesse James.

  16. July 11, 2009 2:56 pm

    Great Review! I had a friend who saw it and pretty much agreed with your view on it. She said she was cheering for the ganster. 🙂

  17. July 11, 2009 3:07 pm

    i bet my husband would love this one, but me probably not so much. thanks for the review.

  18. July 11, 2009 6:01 pm

    I haven’t seen this yet, but I’m having trouble imagining Christian Bale with a Southern accent.

  19. July 11, 2009 6:07 pm

    I do want to see this! I saw Bruno tonight. Pretty funny — but VERY out there.

  20. July 11, 2009 7:31 pm

    Honey, Johnny Depp could be taking out the trash and still looking hunkalicious! Definitely a must see movie.

  21. July 11, 2009 7:32 pm

    I’m glad you reviewed this, and shared that conversation with your mom – I agree, I don’t think this could happen today. My husband and I have been debating seeing it, so I appreciate your take on it!

  22. July 11, 2009 7:37 pm

    As others have said, I think I’ll wait until I can get this one from Netflix. When actors who are not originally from the South try to talk with a southern accent, they get it so wrong most of the time. Being from Georgia, I know how we’re supposed to sound! 🙂

    Thanks for the review!

  23. July 11, 2009 9:12 pm

    You’re missing by reading the book AFTER seeing the film, but I guess that’s better than never reading it.

    Dillinger was a powerful man; many of the police were on his payroll.

  24. Kristina permalink
    July 11, 2009 9:12 pm

    Thank you for the great review!! I’ve been wanting to see this one and I think that background info will help!

  25. July 11, 2009 9:14 pm

    I love Depp and will certainly get this one when it comes out on DVD to watch. Isn’t Bale from England? I probably wouldn’t have caught the accent thing at all being from Michigan!! 🙂

  26. July 11, 2009 9:15 pm

    I also meant to add that I liked your mom’s thoughts on this movie!! Really helps put events into perspective when you talk to someone who lived through that time period.

  27. July 11, 2009 9:43 pm

    I’ll wind up buying the DVD, if only because Michael Mann pairing up with Dante Spinotti has always produced great visual experiences.

  28. July 11, 2009 11:03 pm

    My son and his girlfriend saw the movie this past week. They really liked it.

    Loved your review and I am glad you pointed out the differences in attitude in regards to criminals from the 1930 as compared to now. That is a good point to keep in mind.

    I am not good with movie suspense/violence type stuff (can read it but not watch) but geesh…Johnny Depp means that I must watch the movie. Seriously, That man has talent!

  29. July 12, 2009 8:41 am

    this sounds like a good film. It is good that your mum could clear up a few points for you.

  30. July 12, 2009 3:28 pm

    I really want to see this movie, Kathy. I might just have to do that tomorrow on my day off…

    Your mother’s explanation of why Dillinger was a sympathetic character reminds me of myself trying to explain Michael Jackson to my younger co-workers. They only see the allegations and freakish physical characteristics because they weren’t around during Thriller. I guess for certain people you just had to be there.

  31. July 12, 2009 6:24 pm

    I enjoyed reading your mom’s comments about Dillinger and the police during that time.

    The movie definitely felt like the 2 1/2 hours it was, but I really enjoyed it. I hadn’t noticed anything off about Bale’s accent, but then, I don’t often hear a Southern accent and so something like that wouldn’t make my radar.

  32. July 12, 2009 8:53 pm

    My husband & I were considering this movie for a date night. But, he heard the reviews weren’t so good. I’ll have to tell him about your review.

    It’s interesting your mother’s perspective on the book. I have to admit, for some reason, I’ve always have a soft spot for gangsters from my Goodfellas days as a teen!

  33. July 12, 2009 9:08 pm

    I see you were a little “meh” about this one. I actually found myself incredibly bored watching it. I felt like there were some good scenes, but they didn’t really do a good job of creating a plot. Johnny Depp’s character was extremely sympathetic, but Christian Bale’s character just annoyed me. I couldn’t get into him at all. I was really hoping to enjoy this one, maybe my expectations were too high!

  34. July 13, 2009 10:53 am

    Interesting explanation about Dillinger’s acceptance — sort of the way folks thought about Bonnie and Clyde. In some cities (Chicago, for one) the government was so corrupt that it probably didn’t seem wrong for a few tought guys to get a share, too.

  35. July 13, 2009 5:07 pm

    I can’t wait to see this movie…big fan of both Johnny Depp and Christian Bale (although now I’m not so excited to see him as you didn’t like his ascent).

    I’m currently reading The Rise and Fall of the Dillinger Gang – it’s a NF about the gang. The author has some eye-witness accounts where people say Dillinger was a gentleman and would tell people he wouldn’t hurt them and he wouldn’t. One example was when he was finished robbing a bank, a farmer and his son walked in with month to deposit. Dillinger told the farmer to keep the money.

    I also had a very interesting conversation with my Grandfather about the Dillinger Gang. He was about 10 or 11 when they were robbing banks and remembers hearing about them. It was fun to talk to my Grandfather, who still remembered their names!!!!, and what was different during that time in regards to police work and criminal work, etc. It really made me understand it better.

    • July 13, 2009 5:08 pm

      oops – instead of the farmer wanting to deposit “month”..he wanted to deposit “money”.

  36. July 13, 2009 5:34 pm

    With those actors, what’s not to like? LOL. Nice review and I loved your mother’s comments. Thanks for sharing them.

  37. July 13, 2009 6:09 pm

    I completely understand your mom’s pov about what people thought of gangsters back then. It was the depression and there was a lot of corruption going on back then. Although when you think about today….anyway, sounds like a great movie. And it’s Johnny Depp, ahh!

  38. July 14, 2009 11:40 am

    I haven’t read the book, don’t know that I ever would because the subject matter really isn’t my thing, but Johnny Depp sure is my kind of thing! LOL I will probably watch the movie just to spend a long time looking at him.

  39. July 15, 2009 5:09 pm

    This is a movie our whole family would like to see, I’m glad to hear you enjoyed it. And thanks so much for sharing what your mom had to say, what an interesting conversation that must have been!

  40. July 17, 2009 1:59 am

    I went and saw this, too. A bit too long for me for a theater viewing and I was ready to move for about 30 minutes before the end, but overall really good. I really liked Depp in this character. I thought Bale was just okay. I also really liked the actress who played Dillinger’s love interest. I can’t remember her name in real life or in the movie, but I liked her!

  41. September 8, 2010 10:28 am

    Mann draws a sprawling cast together with a myriad of period details that give an authentic sheen, without letting the audience get confused in the sea of historic information. Check out my review, when you can! Nice Review!

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