Public Enemies Blu-Ray Review

Johnny Depp in Public EnemiesPublic Enemies opened over the summer to mixed movie reviews and lukewarm box office results, despite starring two of the biggest names in Hollywood – Johnny Depp and Christian Bale. The movie is also directed by Michael Mann, with the movie promising to be a 1920’s version of Heat. The movie is now out on Blu-Ray and DVD.

While Public Enemies didn’t quite live up to that classic DeNiro/Pacino movie, the movie was better than word-of-mouth indicated; the negative effect of digital cameras was overblown, and the performances and action are generally top notch. The portrayals of John Dillinger and Melvin Purvis seem historically accurate for the most part, too. All in all, the movie would make a good stocking stuffer this Christmas.

If you want to read my full review of the movie, go to my Public Enemies movie review page.

The Blu-Ray comes with two discs, one for the movie and bonus features, the other for the digital copy. Leave it Hollywood to come up with a format that can hold everything on one disc and then decide to waste landfills with double the materials for very little added value. Al Gore is shaking his head in disgust as I write this. Unless he’s in Washington, D.C., in which case he’s probably asleep.

Since I essentially toss the digital copy in the garbage (sorry, Al, in the Blu-Ray recycle receptacle), I’ll focus on the Blu-Ray disc. The bonus features range from mildly interesting to disappointing, with nothing standing out as being as all that great. Aside from a feature commentary by Michael Mann, the bonus materials consist of several featurettes, most of which feel extremely promotional – or at the very least, incredibly shallow.

  • In Larger Than Life: Adversaries, we get some back story on Purvis and Dillinger, as well as the performances of Bale and Depp, respectively. The featurette consists primarily of the actors talking to the cameras a tiny bit and footage from the movie. In other words, there is very little substance and it looks like it was made to promote the movie, not provide insight into it.
  • Michael Mann: Making Public Enemies has a few interesting moments, but it too lacks a lot of depth. Any time a featurette contains more footage from the film than original, useful material, you know that something was slapped together for the DVD/Blu-Ray or some Entertainment Tonight exclusive pre-release. Again, a few nuggets to whet the appetite, but nothing of real value.
  • Last of the Legendary Outlaws takes a deeper look at John Dillinger and how Johnny Depp portrayed him; while there’s still not a lot of takeaway, it is interesting to learn that some of the shots in the movie are based on old news footage. Seeing the scenes side by side was sort of neat. Also, to hear how Depp got into the role by putting on Dillinger’s old clothes, visiting his home and so forth gives us some insight into the actor’s madness.
  • On Dillinger’s Trail: The Real Locations is the most interesting featurette on the Blu-Ray, as it’s revealed that in Mann’s determination to shoot on location, they sought out the original places where history was made. So, scenes set in Dillinger’s jail cell to the gunfight at the house in the forest were actually filmed at locations Dillinger stayed.
  • Criminal Technology provides a snapshot of J. Edgar Hoover’s initiatives to modernize crime solving. While people who know nothing about Hoover might find some nuggets here, it would have been better had Universal licensed some documentary about the intriguing character, as this featurette feels like a cliff notes version of cliff notes.
  • BD-Live features are also available, if you have that functionality. I don’t, nor do I care to.
  • U-Control features allow you watch picture-in-picture and follow an interactive timeline. Neat concepts, but not worth my time.

The movie Public Enemies is well worth seeing and is good enough to warrant being added to an action fan’s collection; however, the Blu-Ray special features are very basic in nature and exist primarily as marketing fluff.

By Erik Samdahl
Related categories: DVD Releases, Movie Reviews