This film was the birth of the gangster movie. Filled with raging Tommy guns and sly characters, The Public Enemy is a tragic look at a dark path in life. Most of the sympathy from the audience derives from Tom's mother who is blissfully unaware of how dangerous her son's life is. The final moments are heartbreaking and profound.
It's worth saying that compared to other Cagney films, Roaring Twenties for example, the female characters feel undeveloped, as does the setting. Perhaps this was a form of restraint from the production company, who shamelessly remind us at both ends of the film that they in no way condone the mob.
Nevertheless it is undoubtedly entertaining and a fascinating piece of film history. It's rather like time travelling back to the spot where your future house will stand. There's no bathroom or bedroom yet the feeling of homeliness is still there.