The Johnny Depp True Story Gangster Film On Netflix That Deserves More Attention

By Chad Langen | Published

Johnny Depp and Marion Cotillard in Public Enemies (2009)

As summer fades and autumn’s chill looms, streaming platforms are gearing up for the spooky season with a slew of horror films. Currently, classics and new-age chills dominate streaming catalogs. However, for those seeking thrills without the scares, Netflix recently added the riveting gangster film Public Enemies to its library, which features a stellar performance by Johnny Depp.

Johnny Depp has played cops and robbers, but one of his best is as the legendary John Dillinger in Public Enemies, now on Netflix.

Before the film Public Enemies was conceptualized, author Bryan Burrough initially thought of producing a television miniseries about the Depression-era crime wave. Instead, he penned the non-fiction book Public Enemies: America’s Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933–34, highlighting the exploits of famed gangster John Dillinger. This book became the foundation for the 2009 movie starring Johnny Depp.

Set in the 1930s, Public Enemies chronicles the notorious bank robber John Dillinger’s (Johnny Depp) rise as a folk hero, known for targeting big businesses while leaving ordinary citizens unharmed. As Dillinger’s reputation grows, FBI head J. Edgar Hoover (Billy Crudup) tasks top agent Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale) with capturing him. However, as Purvis faces the challenges of his intense manhunt, Dillinger grapples with a changing organized crime landscape and diminishing allies.

Johnny Depp in Public Enemies (2009)

Johnny Depp’s meticulous attention to detail in capturing Dillinger’s persona lends authenticity to the narrative. While the film does take creative liberties, it remains grounded in historical events. In addition, it offers audiences a glimpse into the fascinating world of crime and law enforcement during a turbulent era.

The level of transformation that Johnny Depp achieves in his portrayal of John Dillinger in Public Enemies is nothing short of astonishing, managing to disguise his familiar features and adopt the persona of the notorious bank robber. He immerses himself into the role with unwavering commitment. Moreover, the synergy between Depp and his fellow cast members, particularly Marion Cotillard and Christian Bale, is truly exceptional.

Public Enemies earned $214 million worldwide, but it cost $100 million, so while it’s a fun movie, it wasn’t a blockbuster.

Under the helm of director Michael Mann, Public Enemies stands as a cinematic testament to the craft of historical filmmaking. The meticulous attention to period details, from the authentic costumes to the intricately designed sets, plunges viewers headfirst into the ambiance of the 1930s. It’s more than just a movie; it’s a time machine that effortlessly whisks viewers back to a bygone era.

Despite the remarkable efforts put forth by the cast and crew, Public Enemies was met with mixed reviews from both critics and audiences upon its release in 2009. Johnny Depp’s portrayal of John Dillinger garnered widespread praise for his skill in balancing the character’s charm and ruthlessness, but some viewers noted occasional uneven pacing in the film. Additionally, criticism was directed towards the film for its perceived lack of truly compelling drama.

Johnny Depp in Public Enemies (2009)

Public Enemies holds a fresh critics score of 68 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, derived from 280 reviews. However, the film didn’t strike the same chord with regular viewers. The movie currently sits with a less favorable audience score of 59 percent.

In terms of commercial performance, Public Enemies achieved a moderate level of success, grossing an impressive $214 million worldwide. However, considering its production cost of $100 million, the film’s financial outcome was a balancing act. Unlike several other films starring Johnny Depp, while Public Enemies managed to cover its expenses, it didn’t reach the status of a runaway box office hit.

What’s Next For Johnny Depp

Since the release of Public Enemies, Johnny Depp’s acting journey has been marred by a series of challenges arising from his widely publicized legal conflicts with his ex-wife, Amber Heard. In the midst of these legal battles, Depp’s professional path became uncertain, but recent signs suggest he is making a comeback. His role in the film Jeanne du Barry stands out as a testament to his resilience, reflecting his commitment to pursuing roles that emphasize his artistic prowess and contribute to the resurgence of his career.

Jeanne du Barry made its highly anticipated world premiere as the opening film at the prestigious 2023 Cannes Film Festival on May 16, and the reception was nothing short of awe-inspiring. The movie captured the hearts of the audience, eliciting a resounding 7-minute standing ovation, thanks in large part to Johnny Depp’s exceptional performance. Although the U.S. release date for the film remains to be confirmed, fans can witness yet another captivating and memorable performance by Depp in Public Enemies, now streaming on Netflix.