Streets of Fire ****
Streets of Fire. A Rock ‘n’ Roll fable. Another time, another place…
In a neon lit, 50’s style, nondescript city, Rock ‘n’ Roll star Ellen Aim (Diane Lane) has come back to perform a concert for her hometown neighbourhood. She is kidnapped off stage by Raven (Willem Dafoe) and his biker gang, The Bombers. Local cafe owner Reva Cody (Deborah Van Valkenburgh) writes a telegram to her brother Tom (Michael Pare) asking him to return home. Before the opening titles are over, Tom has returned and beaten up a gang of 5 guys threatening his sister.
Those first ten minutes set the tone for the rest of the movie. Tom is hired by Ellen’s manager Billy Fish (Rick Moranis) to rescue Ellen. He takes along McCoy (Amy Madigan) and 30 minutes in he’s saved her, in the process of which he manages to beat up most of the Bombers gang and destroy half of their headquarters bar, bringing him to the attention of Raven.
Ridiculously good fun, Streets of Fire was a massive flop upon original release in 1984. Being a fan of Walter Hills movies, I remember seeing it 3 times at my local cinema; it seemed to pull in some decent sized crowds but obviously not enough.
As is typical with most of Walter Hill’s movies, the story is compact, dialogue simple and direct, the music is great and of course the visuals are stunning. The movie is stylish, simplistic and although relies heavily on the 50’s retro look, was ahead of its time in 1984.
MTV owes a huge debt to this movie, the amount of music videos that referenced/paid homage/stole from it are countless. I’m not a fan of the OTT Jim Steinman theatrical song writing made famous by Meatloaf and Bonnie Tyler, but his music works here, and although recorded by Fire Inc., it is performed perfectly by Diane Lane who really looks the part. Well backed up by Hill regular Ry Cooder, whose music is a constant throughout the movie, proving again just how diverse he can be.
The sets are drab and grey during the day scenes and all multi-coloured neon-lit, rain swept streets at night. The other splashes of colour are provided by the musical set-pieces, these are quintessentially 80’s in look, a look that Hill helped usher in with this and his earlier classic ‘The Warriors’. This is all shot beautifully by Andrew Laszlo in his 3rd collaboration with Hill.
The cast are all good although to be fair their roles are somewhat limited. Pare is fine as the monolithic hero, he’s been better in Eddie & The Cruisers and The Philadelphia Experiment although his career never really took off. I always thought he and Michael Biehn would become bigger action stars after this and the first Terminator. Diane Lane is stunning; Amy Madigan and Rick Moranis are good fun and Deborah Van Valkenburgh steals every the scene she’s in.
Highly recommended if you want to see an old fashioned comic-book, action movie; don’t expect any character depth or development, as the movie says in the opening frames, this is a Rock ‘n’ Roll fable; stylish, dumb fun. The Wanderers meets Purple Rain…
Quality: 4 out of 5 stars
Any good: 4 out of 5 stars