The violent life and death of John Dillinger is graphically portrayed. With Warren Oates in title role, screenplay captures the various highlights of the killer’s short-lived career as Public Enemy No.1.
Oates is a good physical choice for role of the bank robber and killer who blazed his way to notoriety during 13 months of 1933 and 1934. Less known to the public was Melvin Purvis, the FBI man responsible for Dillinger’s death in a Chicago alley, but as delineated by Ben Johnson he is as forceful a figure.
Actually, the tenor of the film is the FBI huntdown of Dillinger; Johnson acts as offscreen commentator as well as enacting him on screen. Pace is sometimes reduced during events sandwiched in between actual gunfire sequences of Dillinger’s career, but there can be no criticism of Milius’ ability to keep such action sequences at top-heat.
Michelle Phillips, making her film bow after having been a member of The Mamas & The Papas singing group, scores heavily as Dillinger’s girl friend.