Public Enemies - Summary

Public Enemies is a movie that follows the final years of the bank robber John Dillinger (Johnny Depp) as FBI agent Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale) pursues him. When John Dillinger begins his thirteen-month crime spree, placing him at the top of America’s “most wanted” list, the Great Depression is ongoing.

J. Edgar Hoover has to leave the work of capturing bank robbers to local police until Dillinger commits a federal offense by stealing a car and driving across state lines. Hoover uses Dillinger and his gang as his campaign platform to launch the FBI. Hoover (Billy Crudup) assigns Purvis the task of capturing Dillinger after the agent kills Pretty Boy Floyd (Channing Tatum). 

Baby Face Nelson (Stephen Graham) kills an agent when Purvis leads a failed ambush at a hotel where he believes Dillinger is staying. Hoover brings in professional lawmen who know how to catch criminals dead or alive, including Texan Charles Winstead (Stephen Lang).

Dillinger seeks help from Chicago gangster Frank Nitti's (Bill Camp). Nitti is unwilling to help because Dillinger crimes are drawing FBI’s attention to his illegal activities. Dillinger continues robbing banks and evading police. Dillenger escapes from jail twice; he is a hard man to catch and keep. Purvis has to rely on informants to try to corner the top criminal in the country.

Purvis organizes an ambush at Little Bohemia but Dillinger and his gang escape the resort. With Dillinger still on the loose, Purvis finds a new informant. Anna Sage (Branka Katic), a Romanian immigrant threatened with deportation, offers the Bureau information on Dillinger in exchange for their help in preventing her deportation. Sage tips Purvis that she and Dillinger will see Manhattan Melodrama at the Biograph Theater. After the film, Purvis signals other agents upon seeing them leave. Dillinger spots the police and tries to draw his gun. Will the FBI finally get “Public Enemy Number One” or will he slip through their fingers again?


In this story behind the movie, meet one of the most notorious outlaws of all time—John Dillinger. Travel back in time to visit the U.S. during the depression-era. Meet J. Edgar Hoover and learn about the FBI that he creates.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5183stories and lessons created

Original Release: Jul 01, 2009

Updated Last Revision: Nov 04, 2016

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"Public Enemies" AwesomeStories.com. Jul 01, 2009. Nov 22, 2019.
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