Sunday, 17 May 2009
Streets of Fire
STREETS OF FIRE (1984)
Directed by: Walter Hill
Written by: Walter Hill & Larry Gross
Starring: Michael Pare, Diane Lane, Rick Moranis, Amy Madigan & Willem Dafoe
By all accounts, Streets of Fire shouldn’t work (and I’m sure for some, it doesn’t). With its rock & roll attitude rammed down your throat, dialogue that veers from the deliciously hard boiled to the ridiculously campy and Willem Dafoe decked out in what seems to be black chest waders meant for fishing, it’s no wonder Streets of Fire found it’s audience as a cult film, admirers championing it for all the reasons just mentioned. They are surely the reasons I love it (well, except for Dafoe’s waders!) and with a rocking soundtrack, some full on action and director Hill at least attempting for something different, Streets of Fire, well, just rocks.
Set in a sort of alternate hybrid between the 1950s and 1980s, Streets of Fire tells the simple tale of Tom Cody (Pare) who returns home to rescue his one time flame, Ellen Aim (Lane) from the clutches of the evil Raven (Dafoe) and his biker gang. Cody sets off into the night, with a rag-tag bunch of helpers, to rescue Ellen and get her back to safety so she can continue belting out tunes such as Nowhere Fast and Tonight is What it Means to be Young at the local club. Action and mucho cool Ry Cooder composed music unfolds.
Opening at break neck pace with rock & roll number Nowhere Fast, Streets of Fire sets its intentions right off the bat: this is a rock & roll movie and if you don’t like it, get the hell out of the way. Sexy Diane Lane certainly provides the moves if not the voice as Ellen Aim and no sooner has she finished her number she is kidnapped by 50s biker on acid Raven, leading to Cody to show up and act all kinds of tough. Flick switches into rescue and chase mode, as Cody rescues her and they set off through the city pursued by Raven and his gang. Tough talk and posing abounds, the cast getting into the whole groovy vibe of proceedings and despite the dialogue not always hitting home in the tough manner it is supposed to, Streets of Fire still delivers enough rock & roll grit and explosive action, one can’t help but be propelled by its sense of cool.
Not quite the Rocky Horror Picture Show or a straight forward action movie, Streets of Fire was perhaps Walter Hill’s attempt to fuse his love of tough action movies (the guy is certainly known for them: The Driver, 48 Hours, Red Heat) with a love of rock & roll. A sort of throwback to 50s rebel movies the movie certainly has a style and vibe all of its own. There is also some great action, Hill still staging impressive set pieces in amongst the rock numbers, climaxing in a brutally sustained fight between Pare and Dafoe. The music also rocks, the tunes belted out at full throttle in toe tapping style.
A unique experience and film, Streets of Fire is a true one-off and fully deserved of the cult classic status.