With countless choices of films to watch on Netflix, one we suggest you pass on is Public Enemies. Hitting the streaming service in March, even a top tier cast including Johnny Depp, Christian Bale, Marion Cotillard, Billy Crudup, Stephen Dorff, Stephen Lang, and Channing Tatum, couldn’t save this one. Paired with an action packed and intriguing story based on true events, at the end of the day, the film just missed the mark. Helmed by gangster film aficionado, Michael Mann (Collateral, Manhunter, The Last of the Mohicans), Public Enemies was a flop with critics and audiences alike.
An adaptation of Bryan Burrough’s non-fiction book, Public Enemies: America’s Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933-1934, the film is a biographical telling of some of America’s most notorious gangsters. Taking place during the down and out years of the Great Depression, Public Enemies mostly focuses on legendary bank bandit, John Dillinger (Johnny Depp). During the time, many were looking for a way to make fast money, or any money for that matter. Crime rings ran rampant and America’s fascination with crime syndicates was proven over and over again through newspaper headlines and reels at the head of movies. The film opens on one of the most exciting jailbreak stories to go down in history, when Dillinger managed to not only break himself out, but to bring his whole crew along with him. From here, the main plot picks up as Dillinger relocates to Chicago and continues his bank robbing spree alongside his group of bandits, Homer Van Meter (Stephen Dorff) and Baby Face Nelson (Stephen Graham). Hot on the heels of the Dillinger Gang is FBI operative Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale). Newly appointed to the task of hunting down the robbers by J. Edgar Hoover (Billy Crudup) Purvis is out to make a name for himself within the bureau. Filling out the cast to tell the story of the historical time in American history, Marion Cotillard plays Dillinger’s paramour, Billie Frechette, Channing Tatum plays Pretty Boy Floyd, and Jason Clarke plays John “Red” Hamilton.
One of Johnny Depp’s lowest rated films, out of 281 critic’s reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, Public Enemies landed a 68% score. It did even worse with audiences on the ratings platform, bringing in a 59% score with over 250,000 reactions. Praise was had for the lead acting team as well as the story that was set out to be told, however it was noted that the film didn’t quite meet its goal to become a “compelling drama”. Box office wise, the 2009 piece lost out to other favorites at the time, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs. Opening at $25.3 million, the movie toppled drastically during its second week, only bringing in $13.8 million. It continued to plunge week by week and had a hard time going above its $100 million production budget, eventually landing at $214.1 million globally.
Johnny Depp found success with both films surrounding Public Enemies. Prior to his work as the gangster, the actor took on the equally iconic role as the bloody barber, Sweeney Todd, in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. An adaptation of the Stephen Sondheim smash-hit musical of the same name, Helena Bonham Carter stepped into the role of leading lady opposite Depp. Theater fans and non-theater fans alike loved the film which earned an 86% critic’s score on Rotten Tomatoes. Following Public Enemies, Depp starred in Tim Burton’s live-action reimagining of Alice in Wonderland. While it did not go over well with critics, Alice in Wonderland’s box office success smashed that of Public Enemies, bringing in a worldwide total of over $1 billion.
Following such a long career in Hollywood, it’s no surprise that Johnny Depp would have several flops over the years. From his start in Nightmare on Elm Street to titles like What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and his run as Captain Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, Depp has held some of Hollywood’s most sought after roles. An Academy Award nominee and SAG and Golden Globe recipient, things have taken a turn for Depp over the past few years following his relationship with actress Amber Heard. The two have been through civil dispute after civil dispute following their tumultuous marriage. Still not over, the pair will next be seen in court in April of this year. Whatever your opinions may be on the performer, Public Enemies is definitely one you can skip on your next Netflix night.