"Public Enemies provides a welcome shock to the system," said Michael Sragow in The Baltimore Sun. Michael Mann's "visually electric movie about Great Depression bank robber John Dillinger," starring Johnny Depp, "takes audiences into the center of the action in its opening minutes" and keeps them there for the entire movie. And Depp "nails this character," giving a "performance equally alert and emotional." (watch the trailer for Public Enemies)

Michael Mann's direction "is often breathtakingly fast," said David Denby in The New Yorker, "but it's always lucid." And "there's almost an unspoken compact between director and audience in a movie like this, a compact of pleasure in everything looking so good." But Public Enemies is "missing" something—"a sense of urgency and discovery, a more complicated narrative path, a shrewder, tougher sense of who John Dillinger is."

It seems that "so many details" were "used on the production design that none were left over for the story," said Matt Pais in Metromix Chicago. "The script just isn't there," and as a result we never get a clear understanding of "Dillinger's background and supposed popularity." In fact, everything about Public Enemies "feels underwritten, strangely edited and poorly explained."