Stars: Michael Paré, Diane Lane, Willem Dafoe, Rick Moranis, Amy Madigan | Written by Walter Hill, Larry Gross | Directed by Walter Hill
There are films that are said to be “ahead of their time”, this can often be an excuse for poor box-office sales or just the fact that the film was done in a style that people just weren’t ready for, and they just didn’t understand what the people behind the concept were trying to do. I’d say with Streets of Fire it’s a little bit of the two.
Streets of Fire was created by Walter Hill the same man who brought us The Warriors and just like that movie it was done in a comic book style but Streets of Fire is much more stylised and unusual. Streets of Fire, is set in “Another Time…Another Place” which appears to be a version of the world set in the eighties but with a mixture of fifties style. When Ellen Aim (Diane Lane) returns to her home town to do a concert she is kidnapped by Raven Shaddock (Willem Dafoe) and his biker gang. Aim’s boyfriend and manager Billy Fish (Rick Moranis) hires her ex Tom Cody (Michael Paré) to save her. Cody agrees but even with the help of an ex-marine McCoy (Amy Madigan) Cody may have bitten off more than he can chew.
The city is divided into sections, a lot like in The Warriors but less complicated. On one side we have the home of the rockers with their bad hair styles and dress like something out of Happy Days and on the other, the bikers who dress in leather and ride bikes up and down the streets, of course their side of town is seen as the bad part of town. Between these areas are the more ambiguous areas with crooked cops and long lengths of road to give the journey between the two sides of town a feeling of distance. It’s simple but for what Streets of Fire is trying to accomplish it works.
It seems a shame that Streets of Fire was not a success on its first release but there is no surprise that this has become somewhat of a cult hit. Described as a rock and roll fable, music is a big part of the movie and allows each side of town to have its own style, in a way this could be seen as a more hardcore version of grease if there were more songs in it, and would have probably obtained the status of being a rock opera, something that Michael Paré even mentions in the full length documentary included on the blu-ray.
With the comic book style of the action and the simplicity of the characters who fit in this world sometimes Streets of Fire is quite jarring as a film. Willem Dafoe’s character Raven Shaddock for example comes across as a spoilt brat, who with a biker gang to back him up takes what he wants. Then we have Paré’s touch guy persona returning home to fight for the freedom of the woman he still loves. This kind of story is the kind that could be fit into many styles, Cody could be a cowboy, soldier, space cadet or any other “hero” come to save the day. This is the style of the comic book hero though, and exactly what Walter Hill was trying to create, there were even plans to make a trilogy around him, a shame it didn’t happen.
Streets of Fire ages well because in recent years we’ve tended to fall back in love with the neon style of the eighties, and Streets of Fire is very much a film of neon. With over stylised explosive scenes and even a good old fashioned confrontation between Shaddock and Cody at the end, there are many things that work in Streets of Fire’s advantage, most of all the way it’s fun, never over-complicates things and comes from a love of film, not the hope of making a big Hollywood blockbuster.
Streets of Fire is out now on Blu-ray courtesy of Second Sight.