Dir: Walter Hill, 1984
There was a time when film director, Walter Hill, was a big name in the industry.
An expert in comic-style action films, Hill was imaginative and could spin a good yarn out with lashings of comic book violence.
Music has always featured heavily in his films, driving the action and giving the audience an adrenaline rush.
For Streets Of Fire, Hill placed more focus on the music, allowing it propel the film without using it as plot structure.
Ex-soldier Tom Cody (Michael Pare), returns to his hometown to rescue his ex-girlfriend, Ellen Aim (Diane Lane), lead singer of rock band Ellen Aim and the Attackers, after she is kidnapped by biker gang The Bombers.
Cody drags Aim’s boyfriend, Billy Fish (Rick Moranis), along and tough girl, McCoy (Amy Madigan).
Streets Of Fire isn’t a musical in the traditional sense, with lyrics forming the narrative. But, the soundtrack is a near constant roll of music, written specifically for the film by Ry Cooder. It has to be said, that this approach works very well, and Cooder’s music is rather catchy, if forgettable.
Hill goes all out, here, and throws everything he can think of into the mix. It’s certainly ambitious, but the film has an aroma of familiarity and platitude.
The sets, although highly detailed and impressive, are reminiscent of Hill’s earlier movie, The Warriors, if not outright facsimiles.
Sticking to the comic book theme, Hill and co-writer, David Giler, perfectly capture the tone and dialogue found within the pages of graphic novels and transfer it, successfully, to the screen.
In many ways, the film works. It achieves what it set out to do. However, for all the hits, there’s just as many misses.
The casting is wrong. Pare isn’t a leading man, and can’t pull off the hard as nails, gruff type. As leader of the gang, Raven, Willem DeFoe isn’t tough, scary or even thuggish. His portrayal comes across as camp.
Moranis steps out of familiar character territory, by not being the nerd. Instead, he’s a ruthless businessman and agent of Aim’s, throwing money about and treating people like shit.
Special praise must be given to Diane Lane, as the kidnapped girl. Beautiful and oozing sexiness, Lane nails the role and makes it hers.
In the end, Streets Of Fire had a great premise and lots of potential, but got lost somewhere along the line, leaving the viewer feeling disappointed and deflated.
A missed opportunity.