This film bombed with reviewers and at the box office when it came out -- but I loved it! And its soundtrack remains one of my favorite lps/CDs.
It's a weird tale of a biker gang leader (William DaFoe) who kidnaps a rock singer (Diane Lane). Her nebbish manager (Rick Moranis) hires her ex-soldier/ex-boyfired (Michael Pare) to rescue her. He hires a sidekick, ex-soldier Amy Madigan.
What makes this film so weird is -- you wonder WHEN it's taking place. It's full of anachronisms. The art direction looks 1950s (the malt shop, some of the costumes, the old police squad cars, the teletype). Yet you have female soldiers, and an integrated police force. And the biker gang leader looks like he's dressed for an S&M leather party, in a black leather farmer's overall bid. Very strange.
The dialog is also strange. Very stylized -- to the point of parody. Women are "skirts." Everyone's sarcastic, snarling zingers at each other. Even the bit players. The film feels like everyone in town, from street punks to cops to young girls, is a badass with a bad attitude. And half the zingers seem to end in fights. Very very strange.
The subtitle is: A Rock & Roll Fable -- whatever that means. Don't try to understand this film. Just let it wash over you. You're in a strange netherworld. Accept it, and you'll enjoy the ride. Especially if you like the music...
Some of the music written by Jim Steinman -- if you thrill to the bombastic sounds of Bonnie Tyler and Meat Love, you'll love this soundtrack. There's also a song written by Stevie Nicks, sung by Marylin Martin -- who sounds exactly like Stevie Nicks.
The sort of bizarre film where many will gawk and wonder: What were they thinking? Others will emrace it with the love that cult films attract. I did.
on June 19, 2000
I first saw this movie during my formative teen years, and it has affected my sense of style and taste in music and movies ever since. Though I would not go overboard in saying that it is a "very good" movie, but it is a "great" movie.
It has been said that this is the '50's movie set in the '80's Walter Hill always wanted to make, and he succeeds in catching that feeling. The people are clad in '50's garb, the cars are glorious pieces of Detroit steel or Studebakers, the biker gang lives the dream of Link Wray's music and the threat of Brando's "Wild Ones," the music is at times fast and urgent, like youth racing to an exciting finish, or moody and atmospheric, catching tension, sorrow, and romance. The production value is first-rate, every rain puddle in place, glorious neon colors, and a literally "ripping" scene disolve.
Hill has created a complete world here. The story takes place in a city that is so huge a wanderer (such as Amy Madigan's or Michael Pare's characters) can pass through a "district" the way an old west drifter would pass through a town (not the only similarity to westerns this movie has). One can drive all night, passing through several of these districts, each with their own distinctive character, without finding the end of it. There is a run-down residential area, a nightlife strip, a spooky industrial area, even a southern style district with racist cops! The character of these districts is expressed everywhere, from the production design to the music to the costumes, so you can really catch the flavor of it. I felt that the costumes especially should be commended (hello, academy), not only because they were well produced and looked good, but also each costume expressed the character of the people wearing them and the district they resided in.
The main action of the movie follows the pattern of a less serious version of "The Warriors": our heroes must find their way home against great odds. They must take trains, steal cars, fight cops, and hide from their pursuers. Instead of the run-down griminess of a city on the edge of collapse, however, there is the sense of urgent vibrancy of a thriving culture.
Loving this movie so much, I have accumulated way too much trivia about it. The name of the biker bar, "Torchies" is used in "48 hrs" "The Driver," and "Brewster's Millions." The stripper in the bar is played by Jennifer Beales' double from "Flashdance." She was also in a rock video in the early '80's. The racist cop from the Ardmore is the Action News reporter from "Brewster's..." The train conductor was the DJ in "The Warriors." Robert Townsend can be seen as one of the doo-wop combo, but does not have a single line, unless you count him lip-psynching the songs. They used such light-sensitive film in making the movie that some of the neon was too bright and they had to paint it in.
The music, as has been said before, is great. Ry Cooder (a frequent Hill colaborator) does all the incidental music covering such works as "Get out of Denver" and "Rumble," as well as creating some original pieces. It's a shame none of it wound up on the soundtrack album. The Blasters hit their high-water mark of mainstream popularity with their performance at Torchies (this was my first exposure to them and they have been my favorite band ever since). The Jim Steinman anthems, though not his best, are very appropriate for the theme of misspent youth that the movie has. I don't understand what The Fixx was doing on the closing credits, but it's a good song.
About the acting: it seems acting skills are in inverse proportion to matinee-idol attractiveness, but that's OK, because the beautifully attractive leads don't have to do much (and Diane Lane is more beautiful here than in any other movie before or since). The less attractive secondaries get the good banter , and the stoic cop and the evil villain play their roles to the hilt.
Sure the plot is predictable, corny, even. So is the dialogue. That's part of what makes it so cool! Corniness comes from tradition and universality, so what makes it distinctive is the style, and what style! And its worth noting that the final showdown is one of the most exciting fights in cinema, and has a unique and thrilling esthetic.
So pop a brew, pour that tequila, get some chips & salsa, cuddle with your honey, and crank up your stereo big-screen TV (hopefully you've got a widescreen version too). This is fun, thrilling, and great, and if you're not smooching by the end, get another honey!
Just a thought about the DVD version vs. the VHS version...
In most instances, a DVD version of a movie is superior to the VHS version. The picture is sharper, the colors more bright, clear, and subtle, the sound better, and it is available in widescreen. All these things are true about the Streets of Fire DVD, however...
This movie is not a subtle film. It's aesthetic choices are bold and strong, not subtle or deep. In the VHS version, where the main color on the screen is red, it totally bleeds RED. Where it is blue, and is a bold and dominant BLUE, etc. On DVD these effects are lost as the sharpness of the medium brings out the subtleties of the colors. A shot that was dominantly blue is now a suble mix of greens and blues, and is weaker for it.
Also, that old VHS had a trailer for "Conan the Destroyer," one of the least subtle movies of all time.Seeing that before hearing that Ry Cooder riff really put me in that mid-'80's action movie mood!
on December 26, 2003
"streets of fire",ive gathered was intended to be part of a trilogy by director walter hill[director of 'the warriors'],but poor box office sales,nixed that idea.
i saw the movie at a local cinema in my hometown in 1984 and less than two weeks later it was gone replaced by some'john hughes' schmaltz or someother dreck of that kind of 'teen 80's' ilk.
i thought 'streets of fire' was fantastic,an utterly compelling 'juvinile delinquint film noir western',complete with ravaging biker gangs,sultry rock'n'roll singers,surly hot rod gangs,poutng tuff chicks,glowering bad boys,swithblade knives,black leather jackets,tuff words in tense situations,street brawls with sledge hammers,chopped lowered hotrods,do-wop groups,sexy fishnet wearing strippers,sax honking rock'a'billy bands,burning motorcycles,gun totin' bad ass dames,you name it...this movie has it all.
amid flashing neon,wet city streets,screaming subways,foggy back alleys,menacing bikers,pseudo-tuff punk hotrodders,rough guys with big guns; the story unfolds with a local female rock'n'roll singing legand,ellen aim,played by diane lane,being kidnapped by raven shaddock,played by willem dafoe and his motorcycle gang'the bombers',and of course her ex-boyfriend is none other than tom cody,played by michael pare,local ex-bad boy turned sodier,who comes home thanks to his sister vera,played by deborah van valkenberg,and takes up the task of rescuing ellen aim from 'the bombers' clutches,with the help of a tuff chick mechanic played by amy madigan.
the movie has great sets,has a time period that may be the 50's and it may be the future and it may be another place all together,some of the sets look like chicago,while others look like brooklyn new york,it has a great dirty biker bar named 'torchie's',where 'the blasters' play rousing classics like 'one bad stud',while dancer marin jahin[jennifer beals body double in 'flashdance']shakes her stuff on the stage in front of the band.
the movie was lost in its original run in the theatres,but did well on cable later in the decade and has finally garnered quite a cult following and its rightly deserved; this movie is great fun,as well as a visually stunning masterpiece.
any fan of 'walter hill' or 'the warriors' or stylized 50's like biker hotrod delinquint badboy/bad girl movies or even anyone who just like a little rock'n'roll with there fables,should like this great flick.
so,to all you greasers out there,enjoy this true original ode to a great genre of film making.
plus,the soundtrack is really cool as well,two blasters songs,,two jim stienem songs,a great ry cooder score,diane lane lipsynching in tight dresses to meatloaf sounding songs...its all
so,i hope you dig it,i know i did,i own 2 copies of the video,2 copies of the soundtrack and i cant wait to get the dvd.
You and me, we're goin' nowhere slowly
And we gotta get away from the past
There's nothin' wrong with goin' nowhere, baby
But we should be goin' nowhere fast
It's so much better goin' nowhere fast
Jim Steinman bookends "Streets of Fire" with a couple of his operatic rock epics that make it clear he does not need Meatloaf or even Bonnie Tyler to make his songs sound great (Laurie Sargent and Holly Sherwood get the honors respectively) and director William Hill tries to get us from the big opening to the grand finale by telling a story about a guy trying to get his girl back with a little help from his friends. Ry Cooder provides the rock pulse in the middle aided and abetted by the Beaters and their raucous "One Bad Stud." There is no doubt that the soundtrack fuels this 1984 rock & roll fable that has achieved cult status with its fans, of whom I would clearly be one.
This is a biker movie where Fifties sensibilities are dressed up with a touch of haute couture, Studebakers are the king of the road, the elevated train tracks dominate the city streets, and do-wop groups do the Moonwalk. Ellen Aim (Diane Lane) and the Attackers are doing a big concert back home when the Bombers show up and kidnap the singer at the order of their leader, Raven Shaddock (Willem Dafoe). So Reva (Deborah Van Valkenburgh) who runs the local diner wires her kid brother, Tom Cody (Michael Paré), an ex-solider and Ellen's ex-flame to come home and put things to rights. He walks into the diner and the arrival of a gang of young punks gives him an immediate opportunity to demonstrate that even though he has skinny arms Tom can take care of business (plus he is way cool, as demonstrated by his giving the first punk a second opportunity to try and get his switchblade act together). He also gets a nice fire engine red convertible in return.
Of course, not even Tom Cody can take the Bombers on all by himself, so along for the fun is McCoy (Amy Madigan), another ex-soldier who gets to do the driving and Billy Fish (Rick Moranis), who is not only Ellen's manager but her (for lack of a better word) current boyfriend. Billy has a mouth on him and while Tom never slaps him down McCoy has some fun egging him on about Tom being Ellen's old flame. But getting Ellen out of the Battery is only part of the job, because Tom has to get her back home and you know there is going to be a show down between Raven and Tom (but you probably be surprised by Raven's choice of weapons).
The movie is something of a let down after the credits end, especially since the film editors do some nice wipes and freeze frames that make for a memorable title credits. That comes back for the bit set to Steve Nick's "Sorcerer" (also sung by Sargent), but the opening number "Goin' Nowhere Fast" gets you hooked and it is not until "Tonight Is What It Means to Be Young" at the end that there is that much energy on the screen. I suppose it would have been exhausting to have twice as many Steinman numbers in this film, but this is a musical where the performer needs to be on stage to sing, which is underscored by the music video on the television sets in the bar that allows Ellen to sing a third song.
There is also a problem because the chemistry between Tom and Ellen is pretty sedate. I know what I see in Ellen Aim because I had a crush on Diane Lane when she was in "A Little Romance" and in this film she is grown up enough from being on the cover of "Time" that such thoughts are no longer bad things (By the time she was nominated for an Oscar for "Unfaithful" she could not be more grown up as far as I am concerned, although her Stella in the Baldwin-Lange version of "Streetcar" was pretty good too). But whatever Tom say in Ellen is pretty much buried in the past. Her emotional high point is when she runs to him in the pouring rain, while his is the long last look he gives her at the end. As Ellen sings in "Sorcerer," they are just a "man and woman on a star street in the middle of a snow dream" (go ahead, try and prove something that metaphorical does not hold true).
Still it proves impossible for me not to just go along for the ride. After all, a boy can be the next best thing to an angel and Ellen might not be an angle but at least she's a girl and I've got a dream that when the darkness is over they'll be lyin' in the rings of the sun, but these lovers are star crossed not star kissed. But, hey, it's all we've really got tonight and when I start treating Steinman's overblown lyrics like a Shakespearean sonnet you know I have no choice in the end but to round up on this one even though the DVD does not include the memorable music videos that were released separately on video way back when.
Let the revels begins
Let the fire be started
We're dancing for the desparate and the brokenhearted
Tonight is what it means to be young
Before you know it, it's gone
Say a prayer in the darkness for the magic of love
No matter what it seems
Tonight is what it means to be young
on April 20, 2001
I first saw "Streets of Fire" at the end of it's run in theaters. A bolt of lightning had knocked out the electricity in my apartment, and there was nothing to do but go to a movie. I guess you could say that my discovery of this film resulted from an act of divine intervention.
If you step back from it and really see it for what it is, "Streets of Fire" is a pretty hokey movie. The leader of a motorcycle gang gets a big, hot thing for a beautiful rock singer and carries her off. Then her old boyfriend returns home and rescues her. Boy rescues girl. Boy gets girl. Boy walks out on girl. Big deal! Nothing new here. So, why have I watched it about 30 or 40 times over the years, enjoying it so much that I recently bought it on DVD. I even own the soundtrack album, and on vinyl to boot.
I really can't explain it. Maybe it's the juxtaposition of styles and eras. It seems to throw characters and props from seemingly different times and places together. Maybe it's the way Amy Madigan, playing a part originally written for a man, steals the movie. Maybe, it's getting to watch Michael Paré play the fearless hero and wondering why he never really made it in Hollywood or seeing a young Willem Dafoe, on the verge of a career that would keep him working right up to the present, as the villainous Raven. (Raven. What a great name for a villain.) Maybe it's really about being able to spend 90 minutes with the exquisite Diane Lane, who a few years earlier reportedly had Francis Ford Coppola suffering from puppy love on the set of "The Outsiders". Maybe, it's Rick Moranis, a good but not great Rock score, the knowledge that the outdoor settings were actually filmed entirely on a sound stage, or the sight of "Flash Dance" body double, Marine Jahan, dancing once again. Maybe it's just everything combined.
If you haven't seen this film, do yourself a favor. Rent, buy, or steal it. (Somehow the last choice seems appropriate.) Throw some Orville in the microwave, and then crank up the volume on your TV or, even better, Surround Sound if you have it. Then say goodbye to reality, and let the movie take you to "Another Time and Another Place". And, if you have seen it, it's probably time to see it again.
Now that I think about it, tonight might be a good time to watch it again.
on June 23, 2003
This was one of those big budget, high concept films of the '80s that the studio had high hopes for but ended up belly-flopping at the box office. It's a shame, really, because this is a wonderfully entertaining B-movie with A-movie production values.
Yeah, most of the songs (with the exception of the two awesome tunes by The Blasters) are horribly dated and totally inappropriate for the look and vibe of this movie (what do you expect? they were mostly written and/or arranged by the guy who produced Meatloaf's BAT OUT OF HELL -- ugh), which should have gone more with rockabilly and old school '50s rock 'n' roll instead, but oh well.
Michael Pare delivers his finest performance in this one as the silent tough guy Tom Cody and he has real chemisty with old flame Diane Lane who is perfectly cast as the rock singer who needs to be rescued. This was at the time when both of their careers were read hot (esp. Lane's after doing all those awesome Coppola films!) and this film was supposed to launch their careers into the stratosphere. Doh.
Surrounding them is a great cult cast of character actors... Rick Moranis as the annoying manager, Amy Madigan as the butch soldier-of-fortune, Willem Dafoe as the nasty, leather-clad bad guy and the blink-and-you'll-miss-'em cameos by Bill Paxton (great hair!), Lee Ving (from the punk band Fear), Ed Begley, Jr. (what the?!), Robert Townsend (I'M GONNA GET YOU SUCKA!) and a young Mykelti Williamson (Bubba Gump!).
This was also Walter Hill at his finest. After this, with the exception of JOHNNY HANDSOME, it was pretty much all downhill. But, man, he had a good run until the bottom fell out.
The transfer on this DVD is top notch with kickin' sound that really comes out if you've got the proper home theater set-up. It's a real shame that the studio didn't let Hill or anybody else involved provide some new extras! C'mon! If commercial flops like UHF and NEAR DARK can get awesome special edition treatments then so can this one!
on September 1, 1999
I first saw this one around '87 or so, when it was out in rentals. Since then, I've watched it anytime I had the chance, and bought the video when I found it. Was amazed to find the soundtrack on CD since I couldn't even find it on tape anymore. As I've told friends who asked me about it, it can be summed up very short. "Bad acting, cliched dialog, predictable plot, decent action, great music, awesome movie!" This one is made for just kicking back and escaping to somewhere else for a while.
on August 31, 2001
streets of fire is really just a lot of fun to watch...over and over and over again -- the music is first rate -- the intro song (nowhere fast)and ending song(tonite is what it means to be young) are as good as it gets -- you really just want to crank up the stereo with those two songs -- i think jim steinman is the name of the guy of wrote the songs(also he wrote meat loaf's paradise by the dashboard light) -- the plot line is light but enjoyable -- good score by ry cooder as well -- if you like michael pare in this, you'll also like "eddie and the cruisers", another good rock'n roll movie -- diane lane is an underrated and beautiful actress as the lead singer -- you can't go wrong with this if you just want to hang out and relax...and then crank up the volume -- really, you can't go wrong with this movie --
on January 18, 2016
This movie rules! I accidentally crapped my pants two minutes before but caught it 25 minutes in and loved the whole thing!
This is one of those films you either "get" or don't. You will either enjoy it immensely or scratch your head and ask, "What was that?" This is a "Rock n Roll fable" - a highly stylized interpretation of '50's America.
Michael Pare plays returning soldier Tom Cody who must rescue his ex-lover, Rock and Roll singer Ellen Aim (Diane Lane), who has been kidnapped by the suitably creepy leader of the motorcycle gang "Bombers" Willem Dafoe (who is suitably creepy in any role whether intended or not). Cody, with his sidekick McCoy, uses an arsenal of weapons to infiltrate the "Bombers" lair in the factory district and rescue Ellen under the very noses of the gang. In the film's conclusion, he must face the wrath of the "Bombers" and their leader, Raven Shaddock (Dafoe).
Again, this movie is not America in the '50's, but a stylized version of the car/motorcycle/gang culture seen on the periphery of America's great boom time. It is visually impressive with a contrast between the drab backgrounds and the cars/motorcycles/dress of the actors. The soundtrack is wonderfully eclectic with many of the same inputs involved in the birth of Rock n Roll in the '50's.
There's lots of action, music, comedy with only one negative - Rick Moraniss. Moraniss plays Ellen Aim's manager and is simply terrible in his role, apparently incapable of playing any dramatic role. His terrible acting drags the whole production down by one star.
In conclusion, this is an eclectic film that many will find highly entertaining. I recommend it with four stars.