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Public Enemies Review Critics


Dave White Profile

Big gleaming weaponry. Read full review

Other Critics provided by

Critics scores range from 0 to 100, with higher scores indicating more favorable reviews.

  • 4.0

    out of 100

    Generally favorable reviews
    based on a weighted average of all
    critic review scores.

  • 50

    out of 100

    The Hollywood Reporter Kirk Honeycutt

    The film lacks the juice promised by the teaming of such extraordinary filmmakers with a cast as large as a Hooverville encampment.

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  • 67

    out of 100

    Entertainment Weekly Lisa Schwarzbaum

    As filmmaker Michael Mann takes pains to emphasize in his handsome, underheated gangster drama Public Enemies, the gent may have been murderous, but he had style.

    Read Full Review

  • 70

    out of 100

    Wall Street Journal Joe Morgenstern

    Marvelously detailed and meticulously crafted, an elegant evocation of Depression-era America and its fascination with crime. What the movie lacks is any sense of elation--it’s joyless by choice.

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  • 75

    out of 100

    USA Today Claudia Puig

    A welcome adult alternative to summer's sophomoric blockbusters. The only transforming going on here is actors skillfully taking on roles of '30s-era gangsters and lawmen.

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  • 88

    out of 100

    Chicago Sun-Times Roger Ebert

    This is a very good film, with Depp and Bale performances of brutal clarity. I'm trying to understand why it is not quite a great film. I think it may be because it deprives me of some stubborn need for closure.

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  • See all Public Enemies reviews at

For Families provided by Common Sense Media

Pause for kids 15 & under

Depp scores as Depression-era robber, but lots of violence.

What 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.

  • 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?

The good stuff
  • message true0

    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.

  • rolemodels true0

    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.

What to watch for
  • violence false4

    Violence: 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.

  • sex false3

    Sex: 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.

  • language false3

    Language: 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."

  • consumerism false0

    Consumerism: Not applicable

  • drugsalcoholtobacco false3

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