(Walter Hill, 1984, Michael Pare, Diane Lane, Willem Dafoe, Amy Madigan, Rick Moranis, Bill Paxton,)
A self-indulgent experiment, that starts off strong but completely implodes once its bravado wears off. A narrative mess of finicky, unlikeable characters, questionable pacing and terribly dated music.
Also, one of my favourite films of all time.
|Movie history's most unsympathetic Heroes|
Walter Hill's Streets of Fire is a real oddity, essentially a Drive-In B-movie given an A movie budget. SoF is the kind of film that can only be made if a studio gives free reign to a credible creator, but wouldn't even pass the script stage if offered by anyone else.
The self-proclaiming "Rock & Roll Fable" tells the story of a drifting mercenary, Tom Cody (Pare) who returns home to rescue kidnapped rockstar and former girlfriend Ellen Aim (Lane) from a biker gang led by Raven (Dafoe, in goth makeup and FISHING WADERS)
|Dafoe, Defying fire in S&M fishing gear.|
This simple storyline is set against a Warriors-esque backdrop that looks like the 1980s, but everyone dresses and drives like it's the 1950s, and the music is a mixture of both eras.
The film has a purposefully basic premise, the concept being that the sounds and visuals will carry along the paper-thin plot, and they do, to a degree.
For some reason, every character in the film is a bitter, unlikeable prick. Pare's hero, sporting a bad teenage moustache, grunts whiny, childish dialogue, Madigan is cast as a fellow drifting gun, and though Cody hires her for this dangerous mission, they treat each other with total disdain.
Adding to this is Moranis, mind-blowingly cast not only as a rock manager but also as Diane Lane's love interest.
Moranis' character Billy is a foul-mouthed little turd who seems to exist just to annoy the audience with his incessant complaining.
The characters choose to start arguments with each other just because there's nothing else to do. Surreal.
|It is likely he has just called, or is about to call something "The Shits."|
Jarringly, the films fast-paced quest ends 45 minutes in, then it becomes a dull and vitriol filled "journey home" where they pick up superfluous characters and hangers-on.
This all builds to an anti-climatic showdown scrap, and then a 20 minute epilogue, where everyone decides that they're actually best buddies after all, despite no-one learning anything from the experience.
So, why have I given this film not only five stars, but a heart? Not only that, but why the fuck do I have its dated as hell soundtrack on my iPod?
To be honest, I wish I could write it concisely, but it's hard to put it to words. Streets of Fire is not a great film, it is a narrative mess, full of unsatisfying action scenes, miserably ungracious characters and dialogue that genuinely sounds like kids playing tough guy at school.
|Michael Pare, The Punisher that never was.|
I think, for me, it is because of what the film hopes to be. It takes a tried and true formula and attempts to dress it up in pizazz and fantasy for the new wave 80s. The film bravely tries to hold an innocence in itself, for example, in its total lack of death, despite all the guns and destruction.
I'm a huge fan of the 1950s, and of the whole Drive-In Movie culture which the film exemplifies. I don't think it's a coincidence that the film's beautiful and lavish poster art features rows of 1950s cars lighting up the heroes, stood in a generic "Knight and Princess" pose.
For sure, Streets of Fire is an attempt to "modernise" (at least by 1984 standards) the whole "Drifting hero saves damsel from dragon" story and it doesn't do too bad a job of exploring that quirky and novel idea.
The film also looks great, all neon lights reflected in rain soaked streets and shaky, overhead gutter trains, the grimy street settings that Hill is a master of. A great selection of cars and some interesting sets, from the local concert hall, to the psychobilly digs of Raven's gang.
On a more shallow level, I'm hopelessly in love with Lane and in this movie she's never looked better.
|One of Cinema's most beautiful women, also, Superman's mum.|
Ultimately, I love Streets of Fire because I love its Fuck You nihilism in regards to narrative. At points its direction seems to be winging it, like its being written and recorded live, and whilst that doesn't make for a brilliantly cohesive film, it makes for a trippy and intriguing viewing experience.
Walter Hill's experiment in juxtaposed eras, filled with horrible people and set to music that dates by the hour was destined for Box Office failure, in the face of an audience that no doubt left the cinema confused and alienated.
This sealed the lid on the originally intended trilogy which could have potentially fine-tuned the ideas to something special indeed.
|Poster for little known pseudo-unofficial non-sequel|
Streets of Fire is flawed to hell, but gets a handful of its ideas satisfyingly right and at least has the balls to shoot for its lofty, but unattainable aspirations.
It's a messy, colourful and straight up weird dollop of fun. I love it. I really do.
And, for all it's cheesiness, it has to be said, I've used a piece of dialogue from this film on three different girls, and, legit, each of them melted at it.