Public Enemies attempts to tell the real life story of the notorious bank robber John Dillinger and his group of cohorts during the last year of his life in the 1930s. Set during the era of the Great Depression, John Dillinger electrified America with daring robberies of banks throughout the Midwest. Dillinger routinely stumped law enforcement and was known as somewhat of a modern day Robin Hood during his time, stealing only a bank’s money while refusing to steal from individual depositors.
The movie begins with Dillinger already famous and relentlessly pursued by the FBI (then called the Bureau of Investigation) headed by a young J. Edgar Hoover. Dillinger is in fact, the most wanted man in America as Public Enemy Number One, when he meets the love of his life, Billie Frechette (Oscar winner Marion Cotillard). Once this is all established, the film proceeds to depict the hunt for Dillinger by the Bureau, and the eventual downfall of Dillinger and his gang.
For those who are expecting a deeply moving and engaging movie in the vein of the traditional crime thriller movie (The Untouchables and The Godfather come to mind), get set for a disappointment. Those familiar with modern history will know that this is a well documented story and will be expecting a true to life biopic, which this film certainly is not. Those who will see the film because of Johnny Depp and Christian Bale will be absolutely delighted. Johnny Depp is a rock star in this movie, and viewers will get to see every angle of his face. However, he performs a perfunctory, robotic acting job here. He gives his Dillinger a cold, unfeeling charisma, and has all the great lines. When he finally breaks down and starts to show some emotion, the movie is three quarters through.