Public Enemy Number One
Director Michael Mann’s Public Enemies is based on Bryan Burrough’s book; Public Enemies: America’s Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933-43. The film shows the deeds of the best of the best FBI agent Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale), in attempt of capturing the popular bank robber John Dillinger (Johnny Depp). This film captures history’s most astonishing sudden rise in the crime rate of American history which was the two year battle between J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI and John Dillinger, Baby Face Nelson, Pretty Boy Floyd, and Bonnie and Clyde.
The last few years of Dillinger and his relationship with Billie Frechette (Marion Cotillard) was also focused on in this film. John Dillinger became a hero to the American people. All in thanks to his disposition for robbing banks that many people believed were responsible for the Great Depression. The question is should a successful criminal be viewed as a hero to today’s public? Many people in today’s culture do not look up to criminals as they once did in the past such as the 1930’s.
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But movies such as Public Enemies with a 7 out of 10 rating are the most viewed and have the highest opening weekend gross income of $25,271,675. Does this mean that people today are interested in criminals, evil, and human depravity? At a young age we become curious of the world around us. Therefore our consciousness is drawn to what people see as wrong or deceitful when we become aware of our moral sense. This is why we are so intrigued by crime. This fact explains why so much of our popular entertainment is driven by narratives and plots dealing with crime, criminals, police and violence.
Is it dangerous to have children that are our future watching criminals and all the negativity on TV? I believe the answer is yes. If we let children look up to these public figures what is to come in the future? We learn in behavioral psychology that children learn from copying others such as their parents. This behavior is referred to as, “Monkey see, monkey do. ” Many studies since the 1950s have asked whether there is a link between exposure to media violence and violent behavior. All but 18 have answered, “Yes. The main point is watching television violence can have long-term effects: A 17-year-long study by The University of Michigan found that teenaged boys who grew up watching more TV each day are more likely to commit acts of violence than those who watched less. Children under age eight cannot tell the difference between reality and fantasy, making them more vulnerable to learning from the violence they see on TV. Programs designed for children more often contain violence than adult TV. Many shows glamorize violence which often promotes violent acts as a fun and effective way to get what you want, without consequences.
All in all, these studies prove that violence shown in movies such as Public Enemies; have a direct effect on children therefore our future in today’s society. Historical accuracy was not 100% in this movie. Fictionalization is in this movie, including some to the timeline, but since this movie wasn’t titled as a documentary it’s acceptable. For example, there is a scene where Purvis is promoted by J. Edgar Hoover after personally gunning down Pretty Boy Floyd in an apple orchard near the start of the movie.
In truth, Floyd was actually killed three months after Dillinger’s death in a field beside a barn, and Purvis was just one of several agents present. Homer Van Meter and Baby Face Nelson are personally shot to death by Purvis after a vehicle pursuit from the Little Bohemia Lodge in the film. Van Meter was actually killed by St. Paul police a few weeks after Dillinger’s death, and Nelson was killed on November 27, 1934 in a gunfight with Cowley. These are only a few of the tweaks that were made to the film compared to the real life history that the book and film was based on.
Other than the few accusations, the movie was rated as a success in capturing history’s Public Enemy Number One; John Dillinger. The film, individual performances, cinematography, and set pieces received many positive reviews from critics. Roger Ebert claimed that “This Johnny Depp 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. ” Ross Miller of Movie World gave the film 4. 5/5 stars, and called the film, “a competent, compelling accomplishment that rings true and feels real from start to finish. 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 whose 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. ” Gangster Number one was gunned down outside a movie theater, but it’s the movies that brought him back to life. Capturing what made him a hero to the public during the hopeless times of the Great Depression.