Thursday, April 10, 2008
Streets of Fire
Walter Hill was a hot shit director coming off a huge success with 48hrs when he set out to bring action, music, and cheesy 80's fashions together in Streets of Fire. Now I admire a man who thinks big and wants to do something different, but I can't really say that it all works here. First the story is of a rock singer just breaking through to the big time named Ellen Aim (Diane Lane) who gets kidnapped by the nefarious Raven (Willem Dafoe). Raven leads a gang of bikers named The Bombers who have been ruthless on the small town Richmond (which appears to be a small town in Chicago whatever that means). Reva (Deborah Van Valkenburgh) reaches out to her brother Tom (Michael Pare) to rescue the lass. You see Tom and Ellen once dated until he ran off and joined the Army. What follows is an orgy of violence, bad 80's neon lighting, and cheesy lipsynched songs.
The first problem is casting Diane Lane who isn't able to sing her own songs. Perhaps back then the idea of lipsynching was so prevalent, but for this day and age Lane's work is pretty bad. What not just get a gal who can sing? Surely there was another fetching lass who could have brought that to the table?
The second problem lies within the cornball 80's crap thrown in with the costumes and set pieces. Do we really need the neon lighting and the pop not rock music from the day? No we don't especially when you've gone out of your way to make a lot of the set and wardrobe to resemble the 50's.
The last problem is in the music itself. Almost all of the songs represent the 80's style of music when a soundtrack out of Eddie and the Cruisers would have worked much better. Instead you get leftover Pat Benatar material as performed by someone not Diane Lane. Parts of the score by Ry Cooder is good however. Part of it seems to a riff taken from Springsteen's I'm A Rocker that is repeated over and over through the intro. After that you get classic Cooder guitar that was the best thing about the previous Walter Hill/Cooder collaboration Southern Comfort.
The acting is generally solid. Pare is pretty much one note, but he does that note very well. You get a nice side performance from Rick Moranis as Ellen's manager. Look for cameos by Rick Rossavich, Bill Paxton, and Mykelti T. Williamson. All in all, the film just needed a tougher, leaner image for this to work. By the time Raven and Tom duke it out at the end, you never really get a sense of danger on the line. I had a good time despite all over the failures here, but I'm not sure that's a good thing.
* Got to mention that the movie gets it's title from the Springsteen song and somehow the producers were unable to attain the rights to use the song. One might have thought that would have something you do before you make the film.