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Public Enemies


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Public Enemies (Movies)
Public Enemies (Movies)
Public Enemies (Movies)
Public Enemies (Movies)
Public Enemies (Movies)
Public Enemies (Movies)
Public Enemies (Movies)
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Information about Public Enemies (2009 film)

Public Enemies is a 2009 (10 years ago) American crime movie co-written and directed by Michael Mann. Set during the Great Depression, it focuses on the true story of FBI agent Melvin Purvis's attempt to stop criminals John Dillinger, Baby Face Nelson, and Pretty Boy Floyd. The movie is an adaptation of Bryan Burrough's non-fiction book Public Enemies: America's Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933–34. Christian Bale plays FBI agent Purvis, Johnny Depp (9 walls) plays Dillinger, Marion Cotillard plays Dillinger's girlfriend Billie Frechette, Channing Tatum plays Floyd and Giovanni Ribisi plays Alvin Karpis.


The movie opens in 1933 (86 years ago) as John Dillinger (Johnny Depp (9 walls)) is brought to the Indiana State Prison by his partner John "Red" Hamilton (Jason Clarke), under the disguise of a prisoner drop. Dillinger and Hamilton overpower several guards and free members of their gang including Charles Makley (Christian Stolte) and Harry Pierpont (David Wenham). The jailbreak goes off without a hitch, until gang member Ed Shouse (Michael Vieau) beats a guard to death. A shootout ensues as the gang makes its getaway. Dillinger's friend and mentor Walter Dietrich (James Russo) is killed, and a furious Dillinger kicks Shouse out of the car. The rest of the gang retreats to a farm house hideout, where crooked East Chicago, Indiana cop Martin Zarkovich (John Michael Bolger) convinces them to hide out in Chicago, where they can be sheltered by the local Mafia.

In East Liverpool, Ohio, Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale) and several other FBI agents are running down Pretty Boy Floyd (Channing Tatum). Purvis kills Floyd and is promoted by J. Edgar Hoover (Billy Crudup), who is struggling to expand his Bureau into a national police agency, to lead the hunt for John Dillinger, declaring the first national "War on Crime."

In between a series of bank robberies, including a violent one at the First National Bank in East Chicago, Indiana, where Dillinger kills an East Chicago cop, Dillinger meets Billie Frechette (Marion Cotillard), his love interest, at a restaurant, and proceeds to woo her by buying her a fur coat. Frechette falls for Dillinger even after he tells her who he is, and the two quickly become inseparable.

Melvin Purvis leads a failed ambush at a hotel where he believes Dillinger is staying. An agent is shot and killed by the occupant. After the man escapes, Purvis realizes the killer wasn't Dillinger but Baby Face Nelson (Stephen Graham). After this incident, Purvis requests Hoover to bring in professional lawmen who know how to catch criminals Dead Or Alive (12 walls), including Texas "cowboy" Charles Winstead (Stephen Lang).

Police finally find Dillinger and arrest him and his gang in Tucson. Purvis arrives that evening and briefly talks with Dillinger; Dillinger tries to size Purvis up and manages to unnerve him with his talk about the agent killed by Nelson. Dillinger is extradited back to the Lake County Jail in Crown Point, Indiana, where he is locked up by Sherriff Lillian Holley (Lili Taylor) pending trial. Dillinger and a few inmates carve a fake wooden gun and use it to escape the jail in Sherriff Holley's Police Cruiser. Dillinger is unable to see Frechette, who is under tight surveillance. Dillinger learns that Frank Nitti's (Bill Camp) Chicago Outfit associates are now unwilling to help him; Dillinger's crimes are motivating the U.S. government to begin prosecuting interstate crime, which imperils Nitti's lucrative bookmaking racket.

Later, Dillinger meets fellow bank robber Tommy Carroll (Spencer Garrett) in a movie theater; with him is Ed Shouse, who wants to rejoin the gang. Carroll goads Dillinger into a bank robbery job in Sioux Falls, promising a huge score. Even though Baby Face Nelson is involved, whom he doesn't like, Dillinger agrees. A shootout (triggered by Nelson shooting a cop outside the bank) occurs in which Dillinger is shot in the arm, and Carroll is shot and left for dead. They retreat to Nelson's wilderness hideout in Manitowish Waters, Wisconsin, where Dillinger's wounds are treated; the gang is disappointed to find that their haul is only a fraction of what they expected. Dillinger expresses hope he can free the rest of his gang still in prison, including Pierpont and Makley, but Red convinces him this is unlikely to happen.

Purvis and his men apprehend Carroll (who is still alive) and torture him to find the rest of the gang's location. They arrive at Little Bohemia and Purvis organizes another failed ambush, in which several civilians are killed in the cross-fire. Dillinger and Red escape separately from Nelson and the rest of the gang. Agents Winstead and Hurt (Don Frye) pursue Dillinger and Hamilton through the woods on foot, engaging them in a running gun battle in which Red is shot and fatally wounded. Trying to escape along the road, Nelson, Shouse and Homer Van Meter (Stephen Dorff) hijack an FBI car, killing several agents in the process, including Purvis's partner Carter Baum (Rory Cochrane). After a car chase, Purvis and his men kill Nelson and the rest of the gang. Further down the road, Dillinger and Hamilton steal a farmer's car and make good their escape; Hamilton dies later that night and Dillinger buries his body, covering it in lye.

Dillinger manages to meet Frechette, telling her he plans to do one last job that will pay enough for them to escape together. However, Dillinger drops her off at a hotel he thinks is safe and helplessly watches as she is captured by the FBI. An interrogator, the brutish Agent Harold Reinecke (Adam Mucci) viciously beats Frechette to learn Dillinger's whereabouts, but she refuses to talk; Purvis and Winstead arrive and angrily break up the abusive interrogation. Meanwhile, Dillinger is meeting with Alvin Karpis (Giovanni Ribisi), who tries to recruit a disinterested Dillinger in a train robbery with his associates, the Barker Gang. Dillinger receives a note from Billie through his lawyer, Louis Piquet (Peter Gerety), telling him not to try and break her out of jail.

Through crooked cop Zarkovich, Purvis enlists the help of a madam and Dillinger acquaintance Anna Sage (Branka Katic), threatening her with deportation if she is not cooperative. She agrees to set up Dillinger, who is hiding with Sage.

That night Dillinger and Sage see a Clark Gable movie called Manhattan Melodrama at the Biograph Theater. When the movie is over, Dillinger and the women leave as Purvis moves in. Dillinger spots the police (specifically Reinecke, the man who beat up Dillinger's gal) and is shot several times before he can draw his gun against the cop who harmed Frechette. Agent Winstead, who fired the fatal shot, listens to Dillinger's last words.

Later, Winstead meets Frechette in prison. He tells her that Dillinger's dying words were "Tell Billie for me, 'Bye bye Blackbird.'" The closing text reveals that Melvin Purvis quit the FBI shortly afterwards and died by his own hand in 1960 (59 years ago), and that Billie lived out of the rest of her life in Wisconsin following her release in 1936 (83 years ago).


  • Johnny Depp (9 walls) as John Dillinger: An American bank robber whose exploits dominated the press during what is sometimes referred to as the public enemy era, between 1931 (88 years ago) and 1934 (85 years ago).
  • Christian Bale as Melvin Purvis: An FBI agent chosen by J. Edgar Hoover to lead a manhunt to catch Dillinger.
  • Marion Cotillard as Billie Frechette: Dillinger's coat check girlfriend.
  • Channing Tatum as Pretty Boy Floyd: An American bank robber and alleged killer, supposedly involved in the Kansas City Massacre which kicked off the "War on Crime".
  • Giovanni Ribisi as Alvin Karpis: A noted criminal in the United States known for his alliance with the Barker gang in the 1930 (89 years ago). He was the last "Public Enemy" to be captured.
  • Stephen Dorff as Homer Van Meter: A criminal and bank robber active in the early 20th century, most notably as a criminal associate of Dillinger and Baby Face Nelson.
  • Billy Crudup as J. Edgar Hoover: The first Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) of the United States.
  • Leelee Sobieski as Polly Hamilton: Dillinger's final date, ignorant of his true identity.
  • Jason Clarke as John "Red" Hamilton: A Canadian criminal and bank robber active in the early 20th century, most notably as a criminal associate of Dillinger.
  • Stephen Graham as Baby Face Nelson: He was a bank robber who acquired his moniker, Baby Face Nelson due to his youthful appearance and small stature. After Dillinger's death in Jul. 1934 (85 years ago), Nelson became Public Enemy Number One.
  • Bill Camp as Frank Nitti: Al Capone's right-hand man and Underboss in the Chicago Outfit.
  • David Wenham as Harry Pierpont: A member of Dillinger's crew and Dillinger's friend and mentor.
  • Richard Short as Samuel P. Cowley: He was the FBI agent who brought down Baby Face Nelson but was mortally wounded in the gunbattle in Barrington, Illinois.
  • Christian Stolte as Charles Makley: A known associate of Dillinger's and who broke him out of prison in 1933 (86 years ago). By the end of that year, Makley ranked fourth on Illinois's list of "Public Enemies", behind Dillinger, Pierpont, and Hamilton.
  • Stephen Lang as Charles Winstead: He is the leader of the Texas Rangers who join the manhunt for Dillinger and his gang. Winstead had previously been involved in tracking Bonnie and Clyde and Machine Gun Kelly before joining the Dillinger manhunt. Stephen Lang previously worked with Mann in Manhunter.
  • Emilie de Ravin (12 walls) as Anna Patzke: a bank teller who was taken hostage by Dillinger and later released.
  • Shawn Hatosy as John Madala: An FBI agent who helped capture Ma Barker.
  • Branka Katic as Anna Sage: the infamous "Lady in Red" who was romantically involved with Dillinger at the time of his murder.
  • Don Frye as Clarence Hurt: a Texas Ranger. Frye previously worked with Mann on Miami Vice.
  • James Russo as Walter Dietrich: a man whom Dillinger met while in the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City. He taught Dillinger and others "the methods of Herman 'Baron' K. Lamm, a Prussian army officer turned highly successful bank robber."
  • Lili Taylor as Sheriff Lillian Holley: Sheriff of Lake County Jail, Crown Point, Indiana, where Dillinger was incarcerated.



Enemies is based on Bryan Burrough's 2004 (15 years ago) non-fiction book, Public Enemies: America's Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933–34. Burrough had originally begun researching the subject with the aim of creating a miniseries. The idea was accepted by HBO and Burrough was made an executive producer, along with Robert De Niro's Tribeca Productions, and was asked to write the screenplay. However, Burrough had no experience in screenwriting, and says his drafts were probably "very, very bad. Ishtar bad." He began simultaneously writing a non-fiction book, which he found easier, spending two years working on it while the interest in the miniseries disappeared. Burrough's book was set to be published in the summer of 2004 (15 years ago) and he asked HBO to return the movie rights. They agreed and after the book was released, the rights were re-sold to production companies representing Michael Mann and Leonardo DiCaprio (7 walls), the latter of whom was interested in playing John Dillinger. Burrough met with a representative and then heard nothing for three years. The actor eventually left the project to appear in Martin Scorsese's Shutter Island.

In 2007 (12 years ago), Mann renewed interest in the project with Universal pictures (wallpaper) backing it. He wrote the screenplay with Ronan Bennett and Ann Biderman and also directed. Of the screenplay, Burrough has said "it's not 100 percent historically accurate. But it's by far the closest thing to fact Hollywood has attempted, and for that I am both excited and quietly relieved."


Principal photography began in Columbus, Wisconsin on Mar. 17, 2008 (11 years ago) and continued in Chicago, Illinois; Oshkosh, Wisconsin; Beaver Dam, Wisconsin; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Madison, Wisconsin; and several other places in Wisconsin until the end of Jun. 2008 (11 years ago), including the Little Bohemia Lodge in Manitowish Waters, Wisconsin, the actual location of a 1934 (85 years ago) gun fight between Dillinger and the FBI. Some parts of the movie were shot in Crown Point, Indiana, the town where Dillinger was imprisoned and subsequently escaped from jail. The actual 1932 (87 years ago) Studebaker used by Dillinger during a robbery in Greencastle, Indiana was also used during filming in Columbus, borrowed from the nearby Historic Auto Attractions museum.

The decision to shoot parts of the movie in Wisconsin came about because of the number of high quality historic buildings. Mann scouted locations in Baraboo and Columbus as well as looking at 1930s-era cars from collectors in the Madison area. In addition, the movie was shot on actual historical sites, including the Little Bohemia Lodge, and the old Lake County jail in Crown Point, Indiana, where Dillinger staged his most famous escape where legend has it he fooled jail guards with a wooden gun and escaped in the sheriff's car. Scenes were shot at places that he frequented in Oshkosh. The courthouse in Darlington is the location for the courthouse scenes. A bank robbery scene was shot inside the Milwaukee County Historical Society, a former bank in Milwaukee that still has much of the original period architecture.

In late Mar. 2008 (11 years ago) portions of the movie were shot at Libertyville High School. Footage includes one of the school's science labs, an office, the school's front entrance, and the locker rooms.

In Apr. 2008 (11 years ago) the production filmed in Oshkosh. Filming occurred downtown and at Pioneer Airport, including scenes shot using a historic Ford Trimotor airliner owned by the Experimental Aircraft Association. Later that month, filming started at the Little Bohemia Lodge. In Apr. and May 2008 (11 years ago), movie crews shot on the grounds of Ishnala, a historic restaurant in the Wisconsin Dells area.

The movie became a flash point in the public debate about the "film tax credits" which are offered by many states. According to a study by Wisconsin's Department of Commerce, the state of Wisconsin gave NBC Universal $4.6 million in tax credits, while the movie company spent just $5 million in Wisconsin during filming.

Michael Mann, the director, decided to shoot the movie in HD format instead of using the traditional 35 mm film.


The movie has so far received fairly good reviews from critics. As of Aug. 9, 2009 (10 years ago), the movie holds a 67% "Certified Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, out of 230 reviews, with an average rating of 6.4/10. It currently holds a 70/100 from Metacritic, which indicates "generally favorable reviews." Rob James from Total movie gave the movie 4/4 stars, stating: "This superstar crime thriller emerges as something surprising, fascinating and technically dazzling." Most critics also praised the film's performances, specifically Depp as Dillinger. Roger Ebert, who gave it a 3.5/4 stars, claimed that "This Johnny Depp (9 walls) performance is something else. For once an actor playing a gangster does not seem to base his performance on movies he has seen. He starts cold. He plays Dillinger as a fact." Billy Crudup's performance was also praised, with his performance being described as "disarmingly good" by Variety's Todd McCarthy. Critics also gave praise to the film's cinematography and set pieces. Manohla Dargis of The New York Times stated that "Michael Mann's "Public Enemies" is a grave and beautiful work of art. Shot in high-definition digital by a filmmaker who's helping change the way movies look, it revisits with meticulous detail and convulsions of violence a short, frantic period in the life and bank-robbing times of John Dillinger." Peter Travers of Rolling Stone magazine, who gave the movie 3.5/4 stars, said "It's movie dynamite." Ross Miller of Movie World gave the movie 4.5/5 stars, and called the film, "a competent, compelling accomplishment that rings true and feels real from start to finish."

Some critics, however, disliked the film. Critic Liam Lacey claimed that the movie was missing "any image (wallpaper) of the economic misery that made Dillinger a folk hero" while also stating that "the most regrettable crime here is the way that Mann, trying to do too much, robs himself of a great opportunity." Similarly, Richard Corliss of TIME magazine claimed that the film's emphasis on docudrama allowed for "precious little dramatic juice".

Daniel Wakefield reviewed the movie for, and didn't rate it highly, explaining "The use of digital photography and inexplicably poor lighting results in a distractingly cheap effect wherein the actors look as if they’re on home video and the set looks like a set. Even the sound editing is haphazard: dialogue ranges from a near inaudible murmur with the occasional word booming at full volume, and the Tommy guns should really be renamed ‘tinny guns’".

Historical Inaccuracies

Although the movie has been praised for its attention to period detail and general accuracy, it takes significant creative license with known facts:

Though Dillinger's robbery spree after his release from Michigan City Prison financed the bribery necessary to get the guns into Michigan City Prison, Dillinger was not present during the prison break; he was still in jail himself in Lima, Ohio at the time. Also, no one was killed in the Michigan City break, but Sheriff Jesse Sarber was killed in the jailbreak at Lima.

Dillinger died (July 22, 1934 (85 years ago)) before both Pretty Boy Floyd (October 22, 1934 (85 years ago)) and Baby Face Nelson (November 27, 1934 (85 years ago)). Other gang members and associates depicted being killed in the film, including Walter Dietrich, Ed Shouse, and Homer Van Meter, also outlived Dillinger.

It's unknown if Purvis actually shot Floyd, though he was armed only with a Colt M1911 pistol and not a Mauser rifle as depicted in the film. Contrary to the film's portrayal, Purvis, four other FBI Agents and several East Liverpool policemen, armed with a variety of weapons (pistols, shotguns, rifles and at least one Tommy gun), fired several volleys at Floyd en masse, hitting him at least twice; because of this, who exactly shot Floyd may be unknowable. The exact circumstances of Floyd's death are still a matter of controversy, with East Liverpool policeman Ed Smith alledging one of Purvis's men summarily executed Floyd after he had been wounded, while FBI Agents present denied this allegation, claiming he was fatally injured and died from his initial injuries. It may also be noted that Floyd was gunned down in an open field, not in an orchard as the movie portrays, and was not armed with a Tommy gun but only a.45 pistol at the time.

The hearing with Hoover and Senator Kenneth McKellar of Tennessee actually took place several years after the events depicted in the film.

Hoover had already declared a "war on crime" before Dillinger came to national attention; the Jul. 17th, 1933 (86 years ago) Kansas City Massacre of four FBI Agents and police officers, in which Pretty Boy Floyd was allegedly involved, was the trigger for the "war", along with the kidnappings of St. Paul brewery heir William Hamm by the Barker-Karpis Gang (which is referenced in the film) and oil tycoon Edward Urschell by George "Machine Gun" Kelly.

Homer Van Meter and Harry Pierpont are shown taking part in several bank robberies together, when in reality the two men hated each other and never worked together on a robbery.

The movie shows Purvis calling in the Texas "cowboys" after a (fictional) failed ambush of Nelson, over the objections of a reluctant Hoover. In reality, Winstead and his men only arrived in Chicago after Little Bohemia and at Hoover's instigation; Hoover considered Purvis incompetent and would later clash with him over the attention Purvis received for the killings of Dillinger and Floyd.

Similarly, Purvis was no longer officially in charge of the Dillinger investigation by the time of Little Bohemia; Special Agent Sam Cowley had superceded him at Hoover's orders. Cowley is only a minor character in the movie and is killed by Nelson at Little Bohemia.

The gang had been staying at Little Bohemia for several days when Purvis and his men arrived; in the movie they're depicted as stopping there overnight after a robbery.

The Little Bohemia ambush was a major fiasco, unlike the film's portrayal where all of Dillinger's associates are killed. Dillinger and his men slipped out the back after the FBI fired shots on CCC workers leaving the lodge; Nelson was the only gang member to actually exchange shots with Purvis's men, and none of the gangsters were killed.

Purvis did not shoot Nelson and was not present when he was killed. Nelson died in a shootout at Barrington, Illinois with Agents Hollis and Cowley, who both died from Nelson's bullets.

Alvin Karpis never met Dillinger (although he knew Nelson fairly well, and his partners Doc Barker and Volney Davis helped bury Hamilton) and did not ask him to join the Barker-Karpis gang on any jobs.

Billie was actually arrested before Little Bohemia, not after as depicted in the film, though otherwise the scene is very accurate.

Anna Sage, Dillinger's betrayer, did not know Dillinger for over a year before and was not a good friend as depicted.

Polly Hamilton, the girl he goes to the movies with in the final scene of the film, was actually Dillinger's lover, while the movie shows Billie Frechette as his only love interest.

Dillinger did not enter the offices of the Dillinger Squad, but rather another state police department.


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