Classics Review: The Public Enemy

Greetings fellow movie goers from around the globe. Today’s classic-themed movie review is a gangster film that paved the wave of crime films during “The Golden Age of Hollywood”/”The Great Depression” and introduced the world to James “Jimmy” Cagney” in “The Public Enemy.” (has zero connection to Flavor Flav’s rap group) Released in 1931, (same year Frankenstein came out) The Public Enemy received critical acclaim from critics and movie goers alike. Plus, it made enough money at the box office. As a result of praise, Mr. Cagney became one of Hollywood’s biggest stars in the 30s. First time I’ve heard of this film was from an episode of “The Sopranos” titled, “Proshai, Livushka” with Tony Soprano watching it on TV. I also found out Jimmy Cagney is John Travolta’s all-time favorite actor growing up and inspired him to become an actor. It was also featured in Clint Eastwood’s biopic, “J. Edgar.”

I’m giving many of you a chance to see this film with no SPOILERS listed. Keep in mind, this is a very short review. It’s not a complex rewatchable psychological thriller nor a swashbuckling epic. Does The Public Enemy remain as a cornerstone in the gangster genre? Let’s find out, shall we?

Rich & Poor Aspects

Rich: James “Jimmy” Cagney did a solid job for his performance.

Jean Harlow also did a solid job for her performance. First time I’ve heard of this ol’ timey actress, is “The Aviator” with Gwen Stefani portraying her. Martin Scorsese is a big time cinephile.

Cinematography felt stable without any technical issues throughout.

Set Pieces and Costume Designs recreates The Roaring Twenties/The Prohibition Era.

Fun Fact: The girl who got her face smacked by a grapefruit is actually the same actress who played the “Bride of Frankenstein.”

As the film progresses, Tom quickly rises to power ranging from his childhood to becoming a full-fledged gangster. His self-destructive tendencies result in permanent consequences.

Although a psychopath, Tom actually cares about his mother who provides her with financial support.

Primary Themes are Social Class, Power, Family, Violence & Brotherhood. Each one is handled maturely.

The Pacing never felt fast or slow.

A scene with Tom getting punched was real when one of Jimmy’s teeth fell. Perhaps Jimmy was the first Method Actor who can take a hit without a stunt double. Another dangerous scene involving Tom nearly gunned down was real. Jimmy almost got shot.

Without giving anything away, The Ending will make you gasp.

Poor: Most of the time, some of the hokey can be a bit cringy. Let’s face it, this was acting back then.

The Climax lacked a compelling one last stand type of a scenario. I expected an intense shoot out not end like a firecracker going off too soon.

The Final Verdict: B, FOR BREAKING BANK!

The Public Enemy remains as a cornerstone in the gangster genre. I was this close to giving it a B- but thanks to The Ending, it really earns a B. If you have a soft spot for films in The Golden Age of Hollywood, go give this one a shot. No pun intended. Which classic movie review should I review next? Please leave a comment and I’ll respond back.

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