Film Review: Streets of Fire (1984)

Release Date: June 1st, 1984
Directed by: Walter Hill
Written by: Walter Hill, Larry Gross
Music by: Ry Cooder
Cast: Michael Paré, Diane Lane, Rick Moranis, Amy Madigan, Willem Dafoe, Deborah Van Valkenburgh, E.G. Daily, Richard Lawson, Bill Paxton, Lee Ving, Stoney Jackson, Robert Townsend, Grand Bush, Mykelti Williamson, Ed Begley Jr., John Dennis Johnston, Lynne Thigpen

Universal Pictures, 93 Minutes

Review:

“Well, it looks like I finally found someone who likes to play as rough as I do.” – Raven Shaddock

I have always looked at 1984’s Streets of Fire as a sort of spiritual successor to 1979’s The Warriors. They share the same director, some of the same themes, some of the same acting talent and take place in a vivid and surreal fantasy version of urban America.

While music often times drove the narrative and the action of The Warriors it takes over Streets of Fire and propels this picture forward as a perfect balance between the action and musical genres. Granted, this isn’t a traditional musical, it is mostly a string of live performances setting the tone, as the action flows around it. It is a movie full of energy and it is incredibly kinetic.

The film also has a neo-noir look, which was becoming popular in the 80s thanks to films like Blade Runner and slew of independent movies employing the visual style. While made in the 80s, the picture mostly looks like an homage to the 1950s and the rockabilly scene of that decade. The movie is a hybrid of 1950s and 1980s culture but the 50s were on a comeback in the 80s and this film really embraces that.

Streets of Fire also crosses over into the biker gang genre of film and Willem Dafoe’s Raven Shaddock seems to channel his character Vance from his debut film The Loveless, a biker gang picture that was also Kathryn Bigelow’s directorial debut.

The film also stars Michael Paré, Diane Lane, Rick Moranis and Amy Madigan.

Paré was a good hero and it is unfortunate that he didn’t do a whole lot after this movie. His acting was a bit better than average, at this point in his career, but he had a presence and just epitomized cool. Diane Lane was beautiful and did great with the musical numbers, even if it wasn’t her voice. Rick Moranis was incredibly unlikable but even then, who doesn’t like Moranis? This film was Amy Madigan’s coolest role and second only to her part in Field of Dreams. I wish she would have got more roles like her character McCoy.

There are a lot of cameos by up and coming actors, as well as Walter Hill regulars. We get to see a young Bill Paxton, as well as Ed Begley Jr., Deborah Van Valkenburgh, Lynne Thigpen, Lee Ving of the punk band Fear, as well as small roles played by Stoney Jackson and Robert Townsend, who were members of the band The Sorels.

For the most part, the acting is not exceptional and the script is often times cheesy and bare bones but for this picture, it works. This is exactly what it markets itself as, “A rock & roll fable.”

The film is exciting and fast paced and never has much downtime. Sure, the plot might not be as developed as many would like but this isn’t that sort of movie. It is a roller coaster ride of bad ass tunes and bad ass characters where two manly men duel in a fairly original fashion. Plus, Dafoe’s presence adds so much to the picture, despite his lack of experience when this was made.

Streets of Fire was a true throwback when it came out and it still fits that mold, over thirty years after its release. It doesn’t need to be set in a defined space and time. It is imaginative and well executed and it has gone on to become a cult favorite among film aficionados.

Film Review: The Warriors (1979)

Release Date: February 9th, 1979
Directed by: Walter Hill
Written by: David Shaber, Walter Hill
Based on: The Warriors by Sol Yurick
Music by: Barry De Vorzon
Cast: Michael Beck, Deborah Van Valkenburgh, James Remar, Dorsey Wright, Brian Tyler, David Harris, Tom McKitterick, Marcelino Sanchez, Terry Michos, Roger Hill, David Patrick Kelly, Lynne Thigpen, Mercedes Ruehl, Paul Greco

Paramount Pictures, 92 Minutes

Review:

The Warriors is a classic. Albeit, maybe not in the same sense as 2001: A Space Odyssey or The Good, The Bad and The Ugly but it is a classic nonetheless.

Few films have as much style and grit as The Warriors. Even fewer are able to generate the nostalgic kinship this film has with its long-time fans. It is a gem at the end of a great era of film – closing out the 1970s and making way for the 1980s.

I wasn’t even two months old when this film came out but I have had a strong bond with it since my preteen years. Maybe that leads me to showing a lot of favoritism to this film but considering the amount of movies I have seen over the course of my life, being that I’ve been an avid film buff since I was five or six, the fact that I still watch this twice a year says something about how great it is.

The Warriors follows a street gang in New York City as they have to fight through several gangs and several territories in an effort to get back home after being framed for murdering the biggest gang leader in the city. It almost plays like a 1980s arcade fighting game and I can bet that many of the game developers of the 80s borrowed a lot from this film. Each borough is a new stage, each stage comes with a new gang or a new challenge and eventually, they win by getting to the end – some safe and sound but with many casualties and fatalities along the way.

Instead of just being a somewhat accurate portrayal of 1970s New York City gangs, the film is more of a fantasy portrayal. All the gangs have unique looks and gimmicks which may seem cheesy at first but ultimately creates an environment that is just as scary as it is bizarre. Also, even with the 1970s fashion and hair, it is a timeless feeling film because it creates its own world and isn’t necessarily a representation of 1970s reality.

This is my favorite film by director Walter Hill and he’s done a lot of films I like, such as Hard Times, The Driver, Streets of Fire, The Long Riders, 48 Hrs., Brewster’s Millions, Red Heat and Trespass. This is also my favorite film featuring the talents of David Patrick Kelly, who plays the villainous Luther – a character which gave us one of the best ad-libs in cinema history with “Warriors, come out to play-ay!” He went on to star in a lot of roles that were all almost equally as awesome – Twin Peaks and The Crow being my other favorites. James Remar, most famous now for being Dexter Morgan’s ghost dad on Dexter, is just fantastic in this. I also enjoyed Deborah Van Valkenburgh who went on to be in the Ted Knight sitcom Too Close For Comfort.

The acting isn’t superb by any stretch of the imagination, other than Kelly, but it doesn’t matter. Besides, the acting is much better than the run of the mill B-movies of the era. While this can seemingly fall into that category, it stands on its own as a unique film and an interesting experience. The film never tires, even after all these years.

If I were ever to open a film school, The Warriors would be required viewing. It has style, it is a really cool concept that is perfectly executed and it is a fun movie. Although, if you are a male in America, I’m assuming you’ve seen it already.