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The Public Enemy (1931)

I actually enjoyed the film, The Public Enemy because I love badass movies. My favorite part was in the ultimate beginning right before his beating when he asks his father “do you want em up or down?”.  I thought that was hilarious and his facial expressions weren’t out of pain but from urgency, like when is this gonna be over. Tommy was an obvious  delinquent since childhood. His friend Mack also followed in his footsteps and assumed the role as his wingman. I interconnected Warshow’s essay with the film and the role of the characters. For instance, a gangster is consumed by his own world. “His activity becomes a kind of pure criminality: he hurts people”. (578, Warshow) For Tommy there was no such thing as right and wrong, it was just his way or no way. He always did what he wanted to do even though he worked for a higher authority. His selfishness ended up getting Mack killed. Tommy was driven by revenge. He was always looking for his next counterattack as seen with the killing of the horse, that Nails was riding and was violently thrown off and killed.

He was very hostile and aggressive with women. He saw women as an entity — a means of pleasure. This was odd to me because his relationship with his mother was one of affection and overprotection. Whenever Tommy would visit his mother he would bring her wads of cash, a form of security and possibly to make up for loss time. Its funny how Mike, his older brother would always interrupt their visits and it would almost always get violent. What’s weird is that Tommy never fought back. I saw that as a form of respect despite their verbal relationship. As Warshow states, we play a double role as the audience because we enjoy the life and bad-doings of the gangster but at the same time we want to see justice for his victims. A quote from the last scene drew my attention and it says “We must solve the problem” which ties to the notion of the American dream. It’s the duty of the nation to eliminate the gangster in order for us to engage in one of our “chief political issues”, happiness. =)

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5 Comments

  1.   ekestler wrote:

    It’s true, a criminal only lives in his world, which is a selfish world where it’s his way or no way. It was sad to see how selfish Tom was throughout the movie, how he invited people into his life only to hurt them, like the woman he ended up smashing a grapefruit in her face. Tom becomes to consumed by his criminality that it is the only way he knows how to operate. He doesn’t realize that what he’s doing is wrong. I liked your whole anaylsis of the film and how you related the readings to it.

    Friday, September 24, 2010 at 10:11 am | Permalink
  2.   abethon wrote:

    I agree with what your saying EKESTLER but a think a lot of it was relative to his upbringing. He was always second fiddle to his brother who seemed to be the perfect son. Tom was the cast away and I think a lot of the reason he chose the criminal path is because it offered an opportunity that provided a feeling of importance in his life.

    Wednesday, September 29, 2010 at 11:33 am | Permalink
  3.   khan wrote:

    You are absolutely right in the saying that he treated his mother with respect but treated other women in a vile manner. This might be so because he looked as them as tools for pleasure or rather trophies to be won rather than women who will bear his child. He loved and respected his mother but abuse women and treated them horribly. Another good point that you made was that he does not hit his brother. I completely agree with you and think that it was because he respected his brother regardless of how contrary to his actions were in terms of livng his life with Michael.It seeemed like Tom hoped that Michael would eventually come to terms with his nature of doing wrong things and tried to avoind a fight with his brother because he still loved Michael. Anyways, great post, was fun to read. Keep writing!

    Tuesday, October 12, 2010 at 5:54 pm | Permalink
  4.   Amy Herzog wrote:

    Sorry to take so long to comment on such a fantastic post. I think you are spot on in terms of reading the film in terms of the American Dream, and our own hypocritical identification with the criminal, and need to see him punished. Tom’s relationship to women is oddly parallel. He treats his romantic partners with ambivalence, but seeks love and comfort from his own mother (hostility/identification). There’s no rationality here, only a perverse emotional reflex.

    Wednesday, October 13, 2010 at 12:14 am | Permalink
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    Sunday, March 31, 2013 at 1:18 am | Permalink

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