Public Enemy / Gangster Film Classic


The film ‘Public Enemy’ made in 1931, is considerably one of the first classical Gangster films among the crime / detective genre. Main characters Tom Powers and Matt Doyle are long-time friends that grow up to become fellow gangsters. Among the city that frowns upon their behavior, both have family members that judge them. Throughout the film Tom becomes more and more willing to commit dangerous crimes. When Tom’s brother comes back from the war, he lectures him constantly about how he should change his life.. how being a murderer will come back to him. Foreshadowing what was soon to come at the end. Tom’s death results in himself not listening to the boss “Lay low”. Instead he doesn’t lay low, and tries to fight back ending him dying brutally in a shootout in the pouring rain. Fin.


One thought on “Public Enemy / Gangster Film Classic

  1. Good post. Being the end of the semester, I find it interesting that you mention that Tom’s death resulted from his not listening to the “boss.” I say that because the same thing happens in many gangster genre films including some from class like “Goodfellas”. Many of the same stories play out in these types of films ending in much the same way. I wonder if it is intentional or not that many films real message is less about “good” guys and “bad” guys or breaking the law, but rather the lesson to heed warnings from those around you and follow the lessons taught that many gangster characters learn early on. Another good argument brought up in the film was about Tom killing for money and his brother killing for country.


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