The benefits of a DVD release are the added material that comes with it, or that's the point. It's always a surprise to see a DVD that includes genuinely fun bonus content, and strange that so many new releases lack special features especially if you don't buy the DVD outright. Director Michael Mann's Public Enemies is not only a wonderful period film, but all the DVD presentations contain material that delves into the real-life history behind the story.
The 1930s saw a booming increase in crime led by criminals whose names become synonymous with the word notorious. Gangster John Dillinger (Johnny Depp) is a man with an appreciation of the finer things in life, and enjoys gaining income from robbing banks. With the love of a beautiful hat check girl (Marion Cotillard), Dillinger is set for retirement. His plans don't go as expected with the fledgling FBI and its star G-Man Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale) hot on his trail.
Public Enemies is a sumptuous period piece that envelops you into the world of a 1930s era gangster. The movie delves into the political climate at the time with the rise of these gang posses that are able to outsmart the feds. Everything from this movie down to the perfect ensemble choices makes this film feel like it was shot in the actual time period! The chemistry between all the cast members is electric and even if there's no discernible action going on, the dialogue is well-written, sharp, and just as engaging. It doesn't look like Johnny Depp will receive any accolades for his role but he is phenomenal as Dillinger. He plays the character smooth, savvy, and the perfect bad boy. It's easy to see why Cotillard's character Billie Frechette becomes so enamored of his because the lines he delivers are charged with sexual tension. The scenes between him and the French actress as nothing short of sexy. Cotillard herself is graceful and elegant as the girl who steals Dillinger's heart. The good thing is she isn't the typical damsel in distress seen in most movies, she doesn't take the gangsters schtick and stands toe to toe with him on every matter.
The only negative is how Christian Bale's Purvis blends into the scenery. The few times him and Depp share the screen it seems as if Bale's holding back to let the other actor steal the spotlight. His character is the perfect G-Man: stiff and bland, but that shouldn't really be conveyed in the performance totally. We never learn anything truly insightful about Purvis other than that he REALLY wants to catch public enemy number one.
Public Enemies is available on a single disc DVD as well as a 2-disc DVD and Blu-Ray. If you're a first time watcher of this film don't be scared by renting this as two of the strongest features are presented here, a rare feature on a rental DVD. Michael Mann's commentary is available on all the different discs and it's perfect to listen to alongside the film. He gives a deep history lesson about what was going on during this era, the real-life locations they used, everything you'd ever want to know. It may come off as dry due to the director's delivery, but if you're interested in the time period (and the movie will make you interested) this is a great companion. “Larger Than Life: Adversaries” is a making-of featurette that continues to focus on the history of the film, only with the actors voices included. The actors all seemed taken with this story and Depp even tells about trying on the real-life Dillinger's pants to get into character. Both of these are perfect but if you buy the 2-discs on either DVD or Blu-Ray it also includes additional featurettes and a digital copy. If the other featurettes are just as strong as the one included on the rental, it'll be a hell of a DVD.
Public Enemies is a strong character study of one of America's most enduring and notorious gangsters. If you're a fan of gangster movies or Johnny Depp this is the one to watch. The DVD is also great in any format with strong features to give you more knowledge.