Streets of Fire
In 1984, the year George Orwell predicted his dystopia would come to fruition, I was in high-school. My stepfather had HBO in his home office and if I crept in there late at night I could catch something like Walter Hill’s, musical monstrosity, Streets of Fire.
To be fair Walter wasn’t trying to make the next Citizen Kane. I’m guessing he just wanted to roll around in a pile of noir tropes and comic books until he felt giddy and a little nauseous. There are worse aspirations, but it is difficult to gauge how much of the awkward bravado and horrendous dialogue in this film is tongue in cheek and how much is just plain awful.
I couldn’t resist picking out a few choice examples of the lines these characters deliver: “Listen Cody I didn’t know you had a thing with Ellen in the old days but you gotta get some smarts. Learn to adjust to the fact that you’re out of the picture now. You see Cody, I do things for her, things that a guy like you could never do. Things that matter in the real world.” or “You know poker is a real interesting game, especially when you have all the best cards” or “The Roadmasters are hungry, and when they’re hungry they eat.” or “Listen skirt let me make it simple for ya, take a hike!” and lastly “I’ve always been a tequila man.”
The film stars Michael Paré who, just a year before, starred as pretty much the same character in another awful movie called Eddie And The Cruisers. What a double feature that would make. You could have a faux rock n’ roll extravaganza. Michael Paré is quite a vision, with his sleepy bedroom eyes and bulging pecks. He looks like a male model and unfortunately also acts like a male model.
His antagonist, Raven, is played by a young Willem Dafoe. I believe it was in this film that I first heard of or saw Willem Dafoe, and even then he terrified me. His visage is savage enough but dressed in nothing but jumbo sized leather overalls he becomes the stuff of nightmares.
There are actually quite a few famous or semi-famous people in this film. There is a great moment when Michael Paré is startled by a dark figure in an alley who turns out to be a grimy, homeless Ed Begley Jr. There is also a scene where Paré has an argument with a train conductor who turns out to be Cherlynne Theresa Thigpen, the host of Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego!
The Incidental music is written and performed by Ry Cooder which would be reason enough to see the film. Its not as good as the tracks he laid down for Paris Texas, but its still a groovy, gritty, slide guitar performance. The diagetic music is a different animal. Our leading lady, played by Diane Lane, is a singer in a nightclub and seems to be closely fashioned after a cross between Pat Benatar and Bonnie Tyler. There are however two numbers by The Blasters who do an excellent job of rockin’ the house.
Rick Moranis and Bill Paxton are also in it. I recognized the actor who played Officer Ed but couldn’t place him. I looked him up and he turned out to be Richard Lawson. Its no wonder I recognized him his resume reads like a history of pop culture. He was in Kojak, All In The family, Good Times, The White Shadow, T.J. Hooker, St. Elsewhere, Remington Steele, Dynasty, MacGyver, The Cosby Show, All My Children, Dirty Harry, Poltergeist, Scream Blackula Scream and that’s not even half.
After watching this film I find it necessary to insert a public service announcement. To all those individuals who drive motorcycles, please be very careful when operating your machine because as is illustrated many times in this film the slightest touch may cause it to explode into a giant ball of flame. They didn’t skimp on the pyrotechnics in this film. However the editor really didn’t get the hang of how to seamlessly fold a stunt into an action sequence. There was always a few seconds of everyone bracing themselves before the stunt was executed like a gymnast just before they begin their routine. When the director says “aaaaaand action!” you don’t include the “and.”
Even with all these problems the movie is saved from disaster by the inventive and surprising story arc. No, just kidding it was awful too. The film used a standard issue Western formula ie. good guy comes to town, foils the bad guy and then exits town leaving the lovely damsel to watch his well chiseled, male model, tushy walk off into the sunset.