Test Screening Reviews: Michael Mann's Public Enemies

Michael Mann's Public Enemies was test screened on Thursday night in Sherman Oaks, CA. It was a blind screening, which means that they didn't give the name of the film when soliciting for moviegoers.  A bunch of reviews have been floating around the message boards. You can read five reviews after the jump. Be warned, some of the reviews contain spoilers. Some are marked, but others are not.

The first review comes from MovieTVWatcher:

Last night I attended a screening of Public Enemies in Sherman Oaks, CA. I have to say that I was really, really excited to see it and I had great expectations to see it. Johnny Depp, Christian Bale, Michael Mann and Marion Cotillard? I couldn't wait. I arrived at the theatre almost 2 hrs before it started so I was guaranteed to get in. By the time the movie started, there were about 400 people and many did not get in. Michael Mann was there as well and I sat two rows behind him. So what did I think? I was very mixed about it. As soon as the movie ended I couldn't tell if I liked it or not.Anyways, let's start with the good:Johnny Depp WAS John Dillinger. It was an amazing performance and he is going to be considered at the Oscars next year. He was one of the few reasons that the movie didn't fail. He wasn't too over the top but he was very believable. I really thought this was one of his best.Marion Cotillard was excellent as well. She and Depp had believable chemistry but I couldn't tell what her accent was supposed to be. Some words didn't have any accents at all while others sounded like her normal speaking voice. I will have to say that by the she surprised me very much. She has the final scene in the movie and it ended well. (I will say that she surprised me even more because I thought she wasn't *THAT GREAT* in La Vie En Rose–Nom? Yes. Oscar win for that movie? No.)The cinematography, art direction, costumes and score was top notch. I had no problem with them and I believed I was in the 1930's.Now onto the disliked/bad part of the movie:Christian Bale is probably the best actor working today that can pull off a great American accent but that wasn't enough for him to really amaze me. His character wasn't fully written but Bale did very good with what he had.There were just too many supporting characters as well and I really disliked how they used recognizable faces (Channing Tatum, Leelee Sobieski, and Emilie de Ravin) for characters that were in just a scene or two.The action scenes were all done very well and the movie was suspenseful but the movie moved slow in some parts and fast in others. It lagged only a few times. I couldn't tell how long the movie was since they didn't start on time and I didn't have my phone, but I would say it is definately more than 2 hrs.BUT THE MAIN THING THAT BOTHERED ME MOST? The handheld cameras. Really did not like the handheld cameras. During the shoot outs I felt like I was in a video game and that took me out of the movie and it just pissed me off. I couldn't think of why Michael Mann decided to film the movie like that.I would say that the movie was about 90% finished. It had all the sound effects/editing done, the score was put in and some of the visual/special effects were done as well.Final Thoughts: The only 10% that needs to be fixed is the editing, the opening of the studio logo and the credits. If Michael Mann and the editor fix some of the handheld shots with superb editing skills, this movie would be so much better. I will say that I will be seeing it again only to see the fantastic Depp and hoping that the movie fixes some of its other problems. Direction was strong as well but again, the handheld cameras really ruined it for me. But the film has so much potential and if it fixes the majority of its problems it should and could be a big Oscar contender. My grade: B-

Here is a review from Donna from JohnnyDeppreads:

I just returned from a screening of PE in LA—WHOA! I attended with my DH and some other JDR members, along with about 400 other people. It was a packed house and even though the flier didn't mention the name of the film, I think that most attending knew it was PE-lol. Just some first impressions—ALL the acting was excellent. Johnny portrayed Dillinger "just right" according to my DH who isn't as biased as I am wink.gif Loved the paring of him with Cotilliard–she was excellent too and a nice complement to Johnny's Dillinger. I thought the acting all around excellent! Even the smaller parts were so well acted and just seamless. For me, thta means that everyone was so believable and it was like a time transfer back to the 1930s. I feel that JMBolger should be very proud of his work in the film. He portrayed Zarkovich(sp?) just as I pictured from the BBurrough's book. We didn't get to see a lot of character development with many of he characters, but you got what was needed to move the story along. Of course, Zarko wasn't my favorite character as he helped set up Dillinger-lol, but JMB played him "spot on" in my opinion.As for the film needing "tightening"—possibly. I'm not sure what else could be cut, but then again, I know the story so it wasn't difficult for me to follow. I noticed a few camera shakes which may have been unintentional( or maybe intentional?) The gunfire is very loud which I didn't mind, but some might think it too loud.One aspect I loved was the feeling that as a viewer, you were right there in the action—during the shootouts especially—bullets flying everywhere!***WARNING: SOME SPOILERS–***Little Bohemia shootout was great— Johnny does dance(somewhat-lol) and believe it or not, he also sings!! The scenery and period authenticity really comes through in the film—I felt transported back to the 30's. Great job by all the extras in the film, too. CBale was in the film more than I expected, but he was good. Michael Mann was there and just milling around in the lobby afterwards so my DH told him how much we enjoyed the film. The film runs about 2 1/2 hours approx. I thought the ending was very well done–we didn't see closing credits. Music was very good throughout—30's type mainly.

The next review is from BuccaRoux:

I did not read the book, but from those that did, they said the movie followed it really well. Everyone agreed the movie was a very good factual account of Dillinger's story. And as we've heard JD was quite the charmer. And in the movie he was as well. He was a tough mean-arse to the cops, but to all others he was compassionate and friendly. Even to his hostages! When he see one girl hostage he has is cold, he takes off his coat and gently puts it around her. And gives one his hat after he lets her go so she'd have something to remember him by and a story to tell. It was cute. And he was nice to the customers that were in the banks when he was robbing them!Speaking of the bank robbing, it was amazing how well choreographed Dillinger and his gang did it all. Same thing for the jail breaks. So well planned and so many people each doing their part to get him and his gang out. They had friends everywhere. He really knew what he was doing! And all the car chases and shootouts were awesome too. And good lord the effects were great, sometimes it felt like you were getting shot. They guns were pointed right towards you and the sound effects were loud and your seats shook, and we all jumped!There was a lot of humor in the movie as well! Lots of spots where the whole audience laughed. That Johnny/Dillinger and his sly little smile.And as Donna mentioned, he sings in the movie! Did NOT expect that! While he is driving, with others in the car, he sings all by himself. Get along little doggy, get along... He was good and it was so cute! And he does dance one dance with Billie. But he starts off telling her, "I don't know how to dance". It was all I could do to not scream out, Oh Johnny, you're such a liar, You CAN dance, you just don't like to dance!Now that we're onto Billie, Marion Cotilliard really grew on me. They were good together. I loved the scene where JD went after Billie at her job. Watch for that one! And the love scene was good. But typical Johnny, in clothes. But for most of it we only saw him from the shoulders and up. (hope that description was ok Karen, I totally held back! if not, edit away!)Christian Bale was good as Melvin Purvis. I thought all the acting was well done and the parts cast well.As far as the ending, I'm not sure where exactly it stops in the book, if it stops with his death or what and I don't want to give anything away. Just bring your kleenex. It is SO hard to see Johnny die.As far as the screening, it was definitely a test screening. They said we were amongst the first people to see it ANYWHERE in the world. They said it was not completed yet. That they still had to fix up the sound, color and such. And there were no opening nor closing credits. But I don't think they'll be making cuts, just technical things to do. There were close to 600 people there. (we counted the seats, and there were only a few empty ones) And most of the people we listened to in line did not know what movie they were seeing. Afterwards we all filled out a lengthy questionnaire. And then they took a sampling of people who rated it differently, they had about 30-40 people, stay for questioning while they kicked the rest of us out. They asked one of us to be part of that group, so Ginger did it. They just discussed the different topics on the questionnaires at greater length. Also we saw Michael Mann there!I could go on and on and on. It's really hard to know what to tell y'all and what not to. I THOROUGHLY loved the movie! It is action packed, suspenseful, funny, smart, romantic. It has everything. I must say it is definitely at the top of my all time fave Johnny movies. And he's not too hard on the eyes either!

And the next report is from Ginger:

I can't believe how lucky I am....I got to attend the PE screening Thursday night. It was really a total surprise and shock that we'd get to see it so far ahead of the release date! I went with Buccaroux, Burleycue and Miroux, and we were all crossing our fingers that we'd get in....these things can be tricky – personal invitation only...but our names were on the list and after we got handstamps and wristbands, we started to believe that we were actually IN. So after waiting around and standing in line for 3 hours, we saw the movie. The theater was completely full – don't know if everyone in line got in because that line was LONG. No camera phones allowed – our bags were searched and we were wanded.I don't think I've given anything away here but just to be on the safe side.SPOILER ALERT!!!No opening or closing credits....just straight into the action. I know the movie was 2 ½ hours but it really didn't seem like that long. It never dragged. I've read the book so I was familiar with the story. The movie just focuses on Dillinger's story. It would've been way too much to try to bring in the Barker Gang and all the other players in the book. The cinematography was really beautiful and the MUSIC really fit. You're totally transported back to Chicago and the Midwest. For some reason, I didn't really notice the costumes....they were all completely authentic, and I think I would've noticed if a particular outfit was NOT right...the hairstyles and especially the glasses they wore were just spot on.I thought Johnny played Dillinger pretty hardcore. When it came to robbing those banks, he was dead serious, mean-faced, and focused. But he also put a lot of humanity in the character – his relationships with his friends and the hostages and the bystanders in the banks. And of course the love story with Billie was, IMHO, made more prominent than it was in the book. You could see how much he truly cared about her. It was a really beautiful balance to offset the violence. And all those car scenes with the Tommy guns blazing were just great to watch. Man, those guys just blasted away & kept driving!As far as the R rating, I think that's probably appropriate, because there's a lot of death by machine gun fire. But it's essential to the story – that's what those guys did. And they didn't go overboard on the blood & guts. You never wanted to turn away & go "ew". But it's not a movie for kids just because of the subject matter. And no sex scenes to speak of — just enough to show that JD & Billie were totally connected. (Sorry ladies....I would've liked a scene or two, it wasn't really necessary to the story.)We filled out a front & back questionnaire afterwards, and I stayed for the Focus Group. They wanted a sampling of people who rated the movie "excellent", and they really just elaborated on the questionnaire. They were looking at how to market the film and what the audience saw as the overall story line. They also recorded our comments. Michael Mann and the producers were sitting a few rows behind the group, and needless to say, listening intently to what we thought!Some samples of what questions were asked: What would you tell people that this movie is about? Was this film about Dillinger's war with the world, Dillinger's war with the banks, a love story between Dillinger & Billie, the story of the FBI, or all of the above? What parts did you think moved too slow or too fast, and why? What did you think about Billie's character? Why do you think she went with Dillinger? What do you think she felt when she opened the box he gave her? Were there any parts that were confusing and why? What were your favorite scenes? What did you think of the music? Did you think the violence was appropriate? What would you tell people when they ask how the film ended? What did you think of the ending?Most of us said that the film was about several things – not just one of the choices. Everyone seemed to like the love story, but they wanted a little more character development with Billie. They really liked the scene at the coat check counter a lot and how Dillinger just completely charmed Billie into going back to the hotel with him. (And yeah, I think we ALL would've gone with him – he was that charming!) And he gave her a gift – which Billie probably felt she didn't deserve, but it was symbolic of how he wanted to protect her. And when they capture her, she protects him. Really nice theme going throughout. I have to say that the scene when they do capture Billie and take her away is just gutwrenching. To watch Johnny's face go through all the emotions he's feeling is just incredible.Everyone thought of the movie as a period piece and truly a piece of history, and we all felt like we were really THERE. And the machine gun action pulled you in – sometimes the guns were firing directly at the camera. There was a little discussion about the hand-held camera bit. At times it was distracting, but on the other hand, it put you right in the middle of the action. The Little Bohemia shootout is spectacular.The beginning was a little confusing for a lot of people – couldn't quite figure out why he was going into prison. But I guess they're counting on people knowing who Dillinger was, so let's not spend time on setting the scene. Someone made a comment that we were never told where the scenes were throughout the movie. We know he roamed all over the Midwest, and obviously you can tell when they're in Florida, but otherwise, you just don't know. Don't know that it really matters....You don't see a lot of story development on the relationship between Hoover & Purvis. But you completely get that Purvis was driven to capture Dillinger. At any cost –no matter how many other lives were sacrificed. I wanted a little more transition about Dillinger going back to Ana Sage. After Billie is captured, suddenly he's back with Ana and some blonde lady and it seemed kind of abrupt. And after all, Ana Sage was the one who helped the FBI get him. It was very clear why she did it, and also very clear that Dillinger knew his time was up.We talked about how this movie is so timely. It's going to play very well, because right now people in the US are not too happy with the banks here. The banks have all the money and we'd sure like to have some of it!The ending was a beautiful surprise – didn't expect that last scene, and we all thought it was a great way to end the movie. I won't give it away! Again, it was such a nice balance to the death scene. And yeah, they shot Dillinger outside the Biograph and it was in slow motion, but that's the only way to shoot something like that. Miroux & I were talking about how it was like watching an accident happen — everything shifts into slow motion and you can see what each of the characters is experiencing. And Dillinger's death was a huge deal – it needs to be more than a "bang bang you're dead, we got him" scene.There are so many memorable scenes throughout the movie – I don't want to give them away! It's the kind of movie where you'll see so much more each time you watch it. There's just so much action that you miss things the first time.I thought we had some really good opinions at the Focus Group. It was hard to come up with instant comments when you haven't had time to process what you've just seen. And it was late and we were tired – we'd been standing in line for 3 hours with no food, no water and no time for bathroom breaks! And then another 3 hours watching the movie and answering questions! But it was just such a privilege to be part of it all and know that the director and producers would seriously consider our comments.

And the last review is from Cutelittleartist: "I saw it tonight and I liked it, HOWEVER it needs a bit of tightening up. 20 minutes could be easily shaved off of this film. The opening sequence is great, the final excellent. It was nice to see Depp in a non-over-the-top type role. I thought he was very good as Dillinger. In fact, I expect to hear some Clark Gable comparisons. Loved the overall look and feel of the film as well which minded me of The Untouchables. Loved the suits and dresses. The cars, the guns. Now my annoyances. Bale was not developed enough. Thought his accent was great and he was very believable, but I think more time should have spent on his character than say Baby Face Nelson. There were a couple other side characters I didn't care about either, but it didn't ruin the experience for me. Marion Cotillard. What can I say other that she's beautiful and talented. There is definitely some chemistry between her and Depp which made their brief love affair believable. Crudup was on point too. Great performances all around by the main actors. I will watch this again when it is released to see if the suggestions given were taken. Mainly tightening the film up. Not much can be done with Bale's character unless they do some last minute reshoots and I don't see that happening. Right now I give it a 7/10"