Public Enemies Movie Poster Image

Public Enemies



Depp scores as Depression-era robber, but lots of violence.
Parents recommendPopular with kids
  • Review Date: July 1, 2009
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2009
  • Running Time: 140 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Despite -- or, in many ways, because of -- its violence, the movie offers a remarkably accurate look at social conditions in Depression-era America -- as well as a series of cautionary tales about the moral and physical cost of crime. Dillinger may be a bank robber, but he nonetheless has a moral code about what he will and won't do; similarly, lawman Melvin Purvis has the law on his side but also feels challenged by the moral issues of what his work entails.

Positive role models

The movie's two main characters are complex men. Dillinger is a hardened, violent criminal ... who also happens to be loyal, polite, and remarkably self-aware.Purvis is steadfast, principled, and dogged -- albeit somewhat ruthless. Supporting characters run the gamut from amoral goons and crooked cops to conflicted confidantes. As the movie's only significant female character, Dillinger's girlfriend Billie is both independent and easily influenced by Dillinger's charm and persuasiveness.


Extensive, very realistic violence (particularly with guns), including close-range shootings; gaping bloody wounds; and more. Many extended gunfight scenes with barrages of noise and debris. Several characters die on screen. Characters are also beaten, and hostages are taken. A woman is roughly interrogated -- she's slapped and hit and not allowed to use the bathroom. Another prisoner is pressed for information by investigators while in enormous pain from a gunshot wound to the head.


Some kissing and writhing in one fairly steamy love scene; intercourse is clearly implied, but no sensitive body parts are shown. A woman relaxes naked in a bathtub, shielded artfully from view (you only see her legs, arms, and shoulders). Depictions of prostitutes and prostitution as part of the criminal underworld; some women shown in states of relative undress, but no nudity.


One use of "f--k," as well as fairly infrequent use of words like "s--t," "son of a bitch," "goddamn," "hell," "pricks," "damn," "bulls--t," and "Christ."

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Extensive, period-accurate smoking; plenty of drinking (hard alcohol, beer) in nightclubs and bars, etc.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this 1930s-set crime drama starring Johnny Depp as infamous bank robber John Dillinger is full of very realistic violence that some will find hard to take. Gun battles are frequent and intense, and characters suffer gory wounds and die. A woman is beaten during an interrogation scene; other characters are shot down in cold blood. Although there's not too much in the way of sexual content (aside from one somewhat steamy love scene with no nudity) or language (there's one use of "f--k," plus a smattering of other salty words) for an R-rated film, the movie's focus on the differences and similarities between cops and crooks yields complex role models and messages. Some law enforcement officers are depicted as corrupt and cruel, while others are dedicated, dignified, and diligent; similarly, there are cold, calm professionals among the film's criminals, as well as hair-trigger sociopaths. Expect lots of period-accurate smoking and drinking.

What's the story?

In 1933, John Dillinger (Johnny Depp) began a 14-month crime wave that started with his release from prison and ended with his death on the streets of Chicago. Hailed by the public as a modern-day Robin Hood -- or at least a charismatic criminal who struck back against the banks that many Americans blamed for the Great Depression -- Dillinger was a celebrity in his day, as was Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale), the lawman that J. Edgar Hoover set on Dillinger's trail. As Dillinger and Purvis are both driven to extremes by outside forces, their kill-or-be-killed hunt plays out. ...

Is it any good?


PUBLIC ENEMIES is a thoroughly watchable piece of thriller cinema, anchored by a great star turn in Depp's John Dillinger. But it's also a much darker, more complex film than the Tommy-gun-toting action in the trailers and the posters would suggest. Director Michael Mann has made more than just crime films like Heat, Collateral, and Manhunter -- but, of course, those are the ones we remember him for. But Mann's more interested in ethics, morals, and society than he is in simple run-and-gun action -- even if he can, and does, deliver incredible action sequences as part of making his deeper dramas.

It's also a film in search of a story to tell -- Depp's Dillinger exists without a past, and Bale's Purvis is a cipher. Marion Cotillard plays the love of Dillinger's life, and she walks a careful line in depicting both a starry-eyed woman seduced by Dillinger's dangerous charms and a fully actualized person well aware of what she's doing. Public Enemies may have a few too many stories in it, and it's hampered a bit by the lack of a clearly defined arc outside of Dillinger's romanticized rise-and-fall. But the technique is immediately apparent, and the textures hidden in the story reveal themselves as more and more interesting the more you think about them. Public Enemies is a film with real depth -- and a welcome chance to engage in a film during the summer season of shallow blockbusters.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the movie's violence. How does its realistic, almost intimate style (intensified by the use of handheld digital cameras) affect its impact? Is it more or less disturbing than booming (but bloodless) explosions and big-budget mayhem?

  • Families can also talk about how the movie portrays both criminals and law enforcement officials. What distinguishes Dillinger from Purvis? Both are smart and determined; why is one a hero and one a villain? Is the rule of law more important than the rule of force?

  • Also, why do you think Dillinger, a convicted criminal, became such a well-loved figure during the Great Depression? Why did so many working-class people admire (and even shelter) him? How did he use the media to his advantage?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:July 1, 2009
DVD release date:December 9, 2009
Cast:Christian Bale, Johnny Depp, Marion Cotillard
Director:Michael Mann
Studio:Universal Pictures
Run time:140 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:gangster violence and some language

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Teen, 13 years old Written bysabreshank December 24, 2010

does not deserve R rating

SPOILER ALERT! This is a very good movie with some iffyness. The violence was not that bad save for a few scenes where there is blood. But, only the very last thing in the movie kind of disturbed me. It is the part when the main character is shot and killed. There is a lot of blood. Other than that, the violence is not that bad. There is a lot of drinking/smoking in the movie though, because it takes place in the 1930s, before they knew about how smoking is bad for you. There is very little sex or kissing in the movie, so that part is fine. The role model is not that good, 'cause he is a serial theif, but in the end he dies, so your kids(unless they want to die)probably won't see him as a role model. I think it is a fine movie to see if your kids are mature enough.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Adult Written bydarthsitkur August 10, 2012

badass crime action thriller

tons of intense action, an amazing theme song, and an awesome performance by Johnny depp as John Dillinger, what's not to like?, action fans will surely love this movie lol
Teen, 17 years old Written bydavyborn January 29, 2012

Good action sequences and performances can't save this ugly little movie.

Like Ben Afflecks The Town, Michaels Mann's Public Enemies is a bad movuie that has a lot of things to like, but, whatmakes them bad movies is that the bad things about them far outway the good things in them. In this case, public Enemies faults lie mainly in it's shockingly distant and incompetant directing from Veteran filmaker Michael Mann, who has created some very powerful films such as The Last of the Mohican's, Heat and The Insider. Now, with those movies, he made memorable experiences for the audience by creating realistic and creative storytelling, strong script work and, most positively, some very good cinematography and visuals. Now, imagine my surtprise when I saw Public Enemies, and the cinematgraphy was easilly by biggest complaint? But, it is a big complaint. I really, really big complaint. The cinematography is just awful. No, scratch that, it isn't awful: It is garish, unattractive and quiet simply, downright amtaeurish and cheap looking. Honestly, I don't really think that it would be much of a stretch to say that it is some of the worst cinematography and camera work that I have ever seen in a mainstream movie. Sure, that sounds unbelievably harsh, but, in all honesty, I truly biueleve that this is soi. Mann, who was so good in crafting powerful and strong images that stuck with us in The Insider, and, even his muddled but at least still good looking other biopic, Ali, but here, it is just messy looking at the screen, and it doesn't help other that he the perforamnes in this movie are actually well fleashed out, the action scenes flow strognyl, and the production values stick out above the grudgy looking camerawork. Also, one smaller but still evident gripe about the movie would be that it is 140 minutes long,a nd yet,the script barely covers anything in John Dillingers life, creating a rather skimpy plot in the film, as well, and, especially for a biopic. But, even though many peiople claim that this film R Rating is quiet mild, I actually think that it is very much deserved: There is infrequent but strong bloody violence, including some very graphnic shootings with copious amounts, and even in a few caeses, buckets of blood spraying from the gunshot wounds., but, probably the most disturbing scene in the movie would be when Dillinger's girlfriend is mercilessly slapped around, beaten and forced to urinate on herself by a pair of brutal depression era cops. Also, there is some infrequent but evident sexual content, as wel, with one particularly sensual bedroom scene. And, finally, there is frequent but fairly mild language throughout the moivie, as well, with a couple uses each of f--k, sh-t, d-mn, g-dd-mn, h-ll and more. So, if you think that this movie looks good, you wouldn't be wrong, because it sure looked good from the poster, the plot and all of the first-ate actors involved with it as well. Michael Mann should be ashamed of himself. He should have been able to do a much better job, than the one he did. Oh well. Next.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much consumerism
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking


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