Watch Before Viewing Public Enemies

Johnny Depp, Christian Bale and Michael Mann together is definitely something to get excited about. In the meantime, picks out some other gangster gems.

Public Enemies is one of the most highly anticipated films of the summer. In a season awash with the crash bang wallop style of cinema, it’s a welcome respite for the cinema-goer looking for something with a little more substance. Public Enemies is set in 1930’s Depression era America, a time following the great stock market crash of 1929. Banks weren’t exactly popular with the general public (sound familiar?) and when charismatic bank-robber John Dillinger (Johnny Depp) robbed them with impunity and evaded police capture he became something of a national hero. On his tail is Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale) top man of the newly minted FBI. The scene is set for a classic Mann cat and mouse chase made even more appealing by the style of 1930’s America. To whet the appetite, here are some more to watch before viewing Public Enemies.


The film in which Michael Mann made cinema history by putting together arguably the best actors of their generation, Robert de Niro and Al Pacino in a scene together for the first time. Heat follows the same criminal/cop relationship as Public Enemies; De Niro is professional burglar Neil McCauley being relentlessly tailed by Pacino’s veteran and world-weary cop Vincent Hanna. Needless to say, both leads are uniformly excellent and the action crackles along under Mann; even Val Kilmer manages to keep up! The scene that Pacino and De Niro finally share is admirably understated and tense, proving that Mann can do the drama as well as the action.


John Dillinger has made it to the silver screen several times; not surprising considering the taste of the public for the charismatic, modern-day Robin Hood. This 1973 version, directed by John Milius (Conan the Barbarian) is little known but well worth a look, particularly for Warren Oates’ portrayal of the eponymous anti-hero. Oates was a notorious Hollywood hell-raiser and favourite of Sam Peckinpah (he plays Lyle Gorch in The Wild Bunch) and brings a dangerous edge to the character. The film is obviously indebted to The Wild Bunch and is fast paced, bloody and full of gun-toting action.

Bonnie & Clyde

The story of Bonnie and Clyde has great similarities to that of Dillinger. Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow (played by the beautiful Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty) robbed banks in Depression-era America, evaded capture countless times and similarly found themselves mythologised by the American public. Arthur Penn’s 1967 classic still looks incredibly fresh today. Its violence (which caused much controversy on its release) still shocks today, even after years of being exposed to the most horrific images on screen. The tragic and bloody ending is still deeply affecting. Hillary Duff has been cast as Bonnie in a new version apparently…the less said about that the better!

The Untouchables

Chicago in the early 1930’s and prohibition is about to hit the skids. The gangs of the city are warring for power over the lucrative bootlegging industry and the police seem powerless to combat the carnage. Enter Elliot Ness (Kevin Costner) and his team who are attempting to bring an end to Al Capone’s (Robert De Niro) supremacy. The film has an excellent male ensemble cast on both sides of the law including Sean Connery and Andy Garcia. From the cinematography to the meticulous period detail, the film is a class act all round; nobody does gangsters like Brian de Palma and the news that a sequel is currently in pre-production is very good news!

Some Like It Hot

Like your gangsters a little more light-hearted? Then we suggest you try Some Like It Hot. It is 1929 in Chicago; Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis play musicians who have to disappear after witnessing the St. Valentines Day Massacre. They go on the run in the place the mob are the least likely to find them; on tour with an all girl band. Billy Wilder was adept in mixing slapstick and witty dialogue with more serious themes. Some Like It Hot definitely has it’s fair share of laughs but also manages to ramp up the tension in the sequence where the boys find themselves sharing a hotel with the very gangsters they are trying to escape. The attention always falls on the performances of Monroe and the two leads but credit should be given to George Raft who is a genuinely intimidating presence as Spats Columbo.



Public Enemies is in Irish cinemas from July 3rd and don’t forget to enter our exclusive Public Enemies screening competition!