Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Streets of Fire (1984)

Title: Streets of Fire (1984)

Director: Walter Hill

Cast: Michael Pare, Diane Lane, Willem Dafoe, Rick Moranis, Amy Madigan, Bill Paxton


Streets of Fire isn’t all that different from director Walter Hill’s The Warriors (1979), it’s an alternate world created by the filmmakers, the rules created by the screenwriter, the director and the actors. In The Warriors, Walter Hill mixed fantasy and reality into a world all its own. The first time I saw The Warriors, it struck me as strange because I asked myself, “who the hell dresses up like clown baseball players?” To me, that wasn’t real, gang members wouldn’t be caught dead in that attire, but then I realized, this is an exaggerated representation of reality. It was Walter Hill’s way of addressing his frustrations and thoughts on the whole gang scene that was destroying the lives of young people during the 60’s and 70’s. And so, if we take The Warriors as an exaggeration of reality, a comic book like fantasy world if you will, then it works. You just gotta let yourself go and dive deep into this cinematic world, suspend your disbelief and just go with it. The same can be said of Streets of Fire, it’s a world into itself, the characters and situations depicted here are not meant to be taken as “reality” but a mere exaggeration of it, a Rock and Roll Fable that takes place in “Another Time, Another Place”.

This is a world where cops allow street gangs to fight, a world in which a biker gang can walk into a rock and roll concert, kidnap the lead singer and terrorize concert goers in all sorts of violent ways. And they can get away with it just fine! This is the premise of Streets of Fire, a film in which we have two gangs of young kids that for whatever the reason hate each other. Willem Defoe and his gang of bikers, who all dress like they belonged in The Village People, kidnap Ellen Aim (Diane Lane) right smack in the middle of her concert and it’s up to Tom Cody (Michael Pare) to rescue her from the clutches of Rave Shaddock (Willem Dafoe) and his gang. The plot is that simple, but we need to keep in mind that Streets of Fire is the classic example of style over substance and I mean that in a good way! Streets of Fire is meant to be enjoyed from a purely visceral point of view, the film is clearly aimed to pleasure our senses and our instinct rather than our minds. Not that it’s a stupid movie; it’s just that its emphasis lies in sensory input because it’s a film about passion and violence, and getting things done. This is a film about action, not about talking. The sensory input comes in the form of enhanced colors, and the awesome Rock and Roll soundtrack, speaking of the soundtrack, this is part of the reason why I say that this is a film that creates its own rules because the film seems to take place during the 50’s but some of the music is very 80’s. I mean, some of the songs were written by the great Jim Steinman (from Meatloaf) and what’s more 80’s than his style of operatic rock and roll?

In a way, the whole story behind Streets of Fire reminds me of Homer’s The Iliad, in which a whole war is sparked by the abduction of a woman, Helen of Troy. In Streets of Fire everything starts because Rave Shaddock and his hoodlums abduct Ellen Aim, now that I think about it, Helena sounds a lot like Ellen,  maybe the similarities between Streets of Fire and The Iliad aren’t that far off, it looks to me as if the writers were partially inspired by ancient epic poem. And yeah, there’s some epicness to this film, there’s this really cool seen in which Tom starts shooting with a modified shotgun at all the bikers motorcycles and the motorcycles start blowing up in balls of flames! Awesome scene! The ending is this clash between two gangs, the evil bikers vs. Tom Cody and his friends, and the battle is like a battle between two rock and roll gods, they even battle with freaking metal hammers! I was like what? Metal hammers? Who thought that up?

The cast is excellent, Michael Pare is great as Tom Cody, he's the guy you don’t want to get mixed up with, he’s a loner, a rebel. Ellen the up and coming rock star, is his old flame; he broke up with her because he doesn’t consider himself the kind of guy who would tag along with her carrying her guitars. Nope, he’s too much of a loner for that. He talks very little, broods a lot and wears a trench coat. He’s a war hero that steals cars, fights for the love of his life, fires shotguns, fights with hammers, and rides motorcycles! This is the ultimate tough guy. Like Pee Wee Herman in Pee Wee's Big Adventure (1985) or Jack Burton in Big Trouble in Little China (1986), Tom Cody is too much of a rebel to get tied down by a relationship. But he doesn’t mind a night of passion! Michael Pare’s career was starting to take off, he was apparently going to be the next big thing in Hollywood, unfortunately he filmed another Rock and Roll themed film called Eddie and the Cruisers (1983) and then he went and filmed Streets of Fire and they both tanked at the box office! Yet, the cinematic gods have smiled upon him! This double death at the box office didn’t kill his career completely, he’s continued his career making b-movies and even one or two studio films. And then there's Diane Lane, wow, she really portrayed a girl worth dying for! Every time she was singing on stage, I was transfixed by her persona, totally captivated. Seeing her on this movie is totally worth the price of admission. Rick Moranis is on this film as well, if you can believe it he plays Diane Lane’s agent/fiancée, and some feel he was miscast in the role. I have to admit he does stick out like a sore thumb amongst all the tough guys and gals. Super sexy Diane Lane with a nerdy dude like Moranis? I didn’t buy it, but whatever, it’s a minor flaw in the movie, plus Moranis is always entertaining.

One of the most interesting characters in the film was a girl named McCoy (Amy Madigan) a tomboy who has as much attitude as everyone else on the film. Willem Defoe is a cartoon of a villain, even his facial expressions are exaggerated emotions, he wears this leather bound attire that’s straight of an S&M magazine or something. My only gripe with the film is the motivations for kidnapping Ellen were not fleshed out , Raven Shaddock says that he’s kidnapped her simply to have his way with her for a couple of weeks, and that’s it. Is that enough to warrant an all out destructive war between two factions? Apparently it is. If a woman is good enough to start a war in The Iliad, then I guess it’s good enough of a reason in Streets of Fire as well and like I said earlier, she is to die for in this movie.

When it was released, Streets of Fire failed horribly at the box office. It didn’t manage to make its money back, so the sequels that were planned for Tom Cody were never made, still, when you watch it, look out for that open ending, they kind of hint at the idea of future films. But as it often happens with cool movies that pass unnoticed in theaters, audiences eventually discover them and so the film has garnered its cult following. Streets of Fire was a good Joel Silver production and you can tell a lot of work went into creating this world, which is why I recommend it, it’s a film that deserves to be seen. Walter Hill wanted to make a film that had all the things he considered cool when he was a kid. Cool cars, rock and roll, kisses in the rain, motorcycles, shotguns…basically, it’s an explosion of coolness tinged with a bit of nostalgia coming straight from Walter Hill’s memory banks. Closing statements: I highly recommend this overlooked Rock and Roll Fable; it is a film that aims to remind us what it means to be young and alive, gotta love it for that!       

Rating: 4 out of 5


Anonymous said...

After you're done with all the 80s movies review,can you do a review on The Last Boy Scout?
also streets of fire is rated PG.

James Gracey said...

I like the sound of this! I only watched The Warriors for the first time a couple of years back (in hindsight my Eighties were deprived without it) and loved it.
What you said about Streets of Fire invoking The Iliad excites my curiosity, too.

Franco Macabro said...

Anonymous: Actually, I've got a copy of The Last Boy Scout sitting on top of my television, because after my trip down the 80's, I was thinking of doing a 90's blog-a-thon! And that Tony Scott film is certainly on my list!

Why do you bring up the rating for Streets of Fire?

James Gracey: It certainly has a bit of The Iliad in it, and a bit of The Warriors, and a bit of romance...and Rock and Roll, it's a very eclectic film!

eddie lydecker said...

Amy Madigan wasn`t really an obvious babe but i always used to really fancy that bird for some reason.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

I want to bugger Diane Lane (as the bird was in 1982 when the bird was 18, not as the bird is now obviously).

jervaise brooke hamster said...

The incredible Diane Lane WAS actually 18 (WOW) at the time of filming, for me thats the ONLY reason to watch this movie, to see that amazingly gorgeous bird at the absolute pinnacle and peak of her physical attractiveness and desirability.

Unknown said...

Love, LOVE this film. I have fond memories of seeing it in the theaters when it first came out and was really bummed that it never took off, but now it's become a cult film.

As for Moranis and Lane's characters being together, I believe it is implied that she's with him mostly because he helped her get out of the town and become a successful singer and helped advance her career.

Franco Macabro said...

Yeah, in that sense I think she's not that wholesome of a character, she seems like superficial person, only with Moranis because of career advancement purposes.

teddy crescendo said...

Rick Moranis is a bloody pathetic joke.

llj said...

Streets of Fire was VERY popular in Japan and you can see its influence in many Japanese anime and video games from the 80s and early 90s. I'm almost 90% sure Blaze from the Genesis game Streets of Rage was modeled after Diane Lane here, and anime like Bubblegum Crisis and Megazone 23 pay homage to this movie in several of their scenes.

As for further 80s movies, are you going to review Dreamscape? I recently saw that one and I'd be interested in hearing what you thought of it.

Franco Macabro said...

Thanks for the info on Streets of Fire popularity in Japan, sometimes, American films wont hit it big in their own country, but become huge in others.

I do have Dreamscape in mind for a review, there's so many 80's movies I want to cover!

Unknown said...

Yeah, I'd love to see you tackle DREAMSCAPE also. Love that film!

Franco Macabro said...

It will be up next week, that's a promise!

Jack Thursby said...

Hey Franco, great review. I need to catch up on this one. Did you know Albert Pyun is making a pseudo-sequel with Michael Pare right now called Road to Hell? Lots unbelievably cheap but might be of interest.

Sorry to get off topic but yeah, if you do a 90s-athon would love to hear your thought on Last Boy Scout. I watched it recently and was a little underwhelmed. I seem to be in the minority somewhat!

Franco Macabro said...

Yeah, I read about Road to Hell, but it worries me that its Pyun directing, he's done some really crappy movies...I mean, last one I saw was called Omega Doom...wow, didnt even bother writing a review it was so bad. But I will most likely check it out anyways, out of sheer curiosity, and because I loved Streets of Fire. I hear it's supposed to be more of a horror film??

A 90's Blog A Thon is in the works, but damn, there's so many cool movies from the 80's I want to review, it's kind of hard to stop the 80's Blog a Thon! I can't seem to find a way to end it! Arrgh! Somebody help me, I'm on an 80s high! LOL!

Anonymous said...

Streets is one of my favorite movies of the 80's.
It was my introduction to Willem Defoe
who I enjoyed in the film. He was also good in "To Live & Die In L.A." Some other 80's films I liked are
"Class of 84", "Philadelphia Experiment" and "Dudes"
w/ John Cryer also a great soundtrack.

Franco Macabro said...

Agree, Defoe is great, one of my favorite performances of his is in Deer Hunter and also, The Last Temptation of Christ.

I have Philadelphia Experiment (which also starred Michael Pare) and The Final Countdown both scheduled for an upcoming review, look forward to that.

Anonymous said...

I love Sof I only wish it can be remade...maybe Tom Hardy can play Cody ???

Unknown said...

Saw this movie when it first came out. I was like 11. Loved it then an I still do. Not sure if there's a blu ray release, but I own the DVD. I've rewatched it numerous times and also picked up on Walter Hill's similarities between The Warriors (my all time favorite). Scenes like the subway an the group running to catch it. The one scene where Cody wants to catch the train but can't has a cameo of the woman who was the radio voice in The Warriors.


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