The Public Enemy

September 6, 2010

Wow, what a movie.

Made in 1931, The Public Enemy gives us the life of a mobster during the Depression Era. Sure, nowadays the “rise and fall” of a local “Wiseguy” seems almost as old as other movie cliches. But, think about when this movie, whose “protagonist” is a cocky, ruthless, cold-blooded, and brutal individual, was made. The 1930s! A time where the American Dream was nothing more than a nightmare for most Americans. The movie itself was violent, belittled women, and gave the whole world a glimpse of the life of a mobster.

Again, this was the same Era that brought about Tarzan, The Ape Man and Popeye, the Sailor Man.

And, of course, the film was met with criticism, namely scenes depicting offstage violence and the well-documented “Grapefruit Scene”-

But, at the same time, it was critically acclaimed. And why wouldn’t it be? This was Goodfellas (my favorite movie of ALL time) before Goodfellas. The acting was top-notch. James Cagney gives the performance he was born to do. He showed us the outer actions and the inner thoughts of a mobster at that time through his acting. Cagney gave us emotional outbursts and subtle actions that truly defines his character. I’m willing to say that the Academy completely did the man wrong not nominating him for Best Actor.

The Public Enemy was, without a doubt, one of the first true mobster movies. I hate to admit it, but I highly doubt Goodfellas would be what it is today if it weren’t for The Public Enemy.