Public Enemies (1996)

Well, we reviewed Hitman’s Run on Wednesday and Groupie on Saturday, so why not review the first collaboration between Eric Roberts and Mark L. Lester for “Mark L. Lester Week” at B&S About Movies? Yeah, Sam and I are freaking out that 1) We forgot about this movie and 2) That Mark and Eric made three movies together.

Pure unadulterated celluloid heaven.

Image courtesy of Tales from the Snik blogspot

As long as you don’t go into this expecting a history lesson about 1930’s mob figure Ma Barker — instead affectionately expecting an exploitation-redux of Roger Corman’s version of the 1930’s with his own Big Bad Mama (1974) , Crazy Mama (1975), and Guns, Sin and Bathtub Gin (1979, aka The Lady in Red) — you’ll have a fun time with this mobster romp.

By this point, Lester was out of the theatre-biz with the likes of Firestarter (1984) and Commando (1985) — a fight over editorial control with Warner Bros. regarding 1991’s Showdown in Little Tokyo was the catalyst in Lester producing and distributing his own films — but this was all over Cinemax, HBO, and Showtime in the late-’90s. Sadly, the reviews on this one aren’t good, as reviewers drop phrases like “a good cast gone to waste.”

Balderdash and 23 Skidoo, to you!

We love Lester’s take on the then-hot mobster genre sweeping ’90s Hollywood (1990’s The Godfather III, Goodfellas, Casino, etc., but 1991’s ’30s-styled Bugsy and Mobsters in particular) this one coming from the pen of C. Courtney Joyner, who wrote most of the films in the Mark L. Lester oeuvre we’ve reviewed this week. And we get a pure exploitation cast . . . what else can we expect from a director who casts the actors we care about at B&S About Movies, i.e., Stefan Arngrim from Fear No Evil, Keith Knight from Meatballs and My Bloody Valentine and Lisa Langlois from Happy Birthday to Me and Deadly Eyes, in his movies?

I mean, come one, Theresa Russell as Ma Barker? Alyssa Milano as a femme fatale? Eric Roberts (The Arrangement) as part of the Barker gang? Frank friggin’ Stallone (Terror in Beverly Hills, Ground Rules) as Alvin Karpis? What the hell? Dan Cortese (then from MTV Sports) as Melvin Purvis? And am I the only person (besides Sam) freakin’ with glee that Brian Peck — Victor from The Last American Virgin and Scuz from The Return of the Living Dead — is friggin’ thespin’ as J. Edgar Hoover in this? And the cinematographer on this: Misha Suslov, the “eye” behind Truckin’ Buddy McCoy, Smokey and the Judge, and Black Moon Rising. Suslov’s most recent work is 2020’s The Girls of Summer.

Weee-hoo-hoo! No self-respecting Eric Roberts or Frank Stallone fan should pass this exploitation-mania festival. No one.

Sorry, we were unable to unearth any online streaming freebies. You’ll have to settle for a VOD with Amazon Prime, Vudu, and You Tube Movies. But it is worth every bit ‘o coin.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

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