It’s not clear what “Public Enemies” is trying to say. There are muddled messages about the expansion of the federal government into states’ legal jurisdiction, along with the requisite message that crime does not pay, but one would hope the film could illuminate something of the man behind the myth along the way.
Sadly, it only reinforces that myth by making Dillinger’s life seem more symmetrical and tragic than it really was. In reality, he was a murdering thief. He just happened to have a fair bit of luck and cunning “ which helped him make a couple of spectacular jailbreaks “ and a fair bit of media savvy with which to create and spread his own legend. Rather than putting the man in context, “Public Enemies” wants to glamorize him, extending his inexplicable fame into another century instead of leaving it in the past, where it belongs.