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Streets of Fire

Once in awhile you come across a film that was so ahead of its time, you can see why it bombed at the box office upon its release. Dropped into theatres as a big summer film back in 1984, Walter Hill’s STREETS OF FIRE was meant to be the first film in a trilogy, but its failure ended that vision.

80’s flash-in-the-pan Michael Pare stars as Tom Cody, a bad boy standing on the right side of the tracks and still in love with his ex, Rock and Roll star Ellen Aim. A very young Diane Lane plays Ellen and she is terrific. For once, you can understand why all the male characters are fighting over her; she’s a knockout.

When she is kidnapped after the her band’s great performance of “Tonight Is What It Means To Be Young” by our nasty, strange villain Raven Shaddock, Tom begins a violent, action filled trek to get Ellen back to safety.

Shaddock is played by a very young Willem Dafoe, whose offbeat looks are exaggerated here into a very twisted persona.

Director Walter Hill (The Warriors, Extreme Prejudice, The Long Riders) delivers a very off kilter little work of genius here, creating what Universal dubbed “A Rock And Roll Fable” on all the promotions, which certainly didn’t help the film find an audience.

In reality, the entire affair is probably too offbeat for the mainstream audience of the 80’s, but its musical elements, its visual style that was so cutting edge then but imitated many times since, creates a really unique feel.

Amy Madigan is Cody’s rough & tumble sidekick, Rick Moranis is Ellen’s manager Billy Fish. Watch for Bill Paxton as a gap-toothed ally of Cody’s and Robert Townsend as one of the singing group, The Sorels.

Kudos to production designer John Vallone, who has created another world all unto its own, filmed 100% on soundstages at Universal Studios. Ry Cooder also gets a special nod for the terrific nearly constant music score that pushes the film forward without ever letting up.

If you’re in the mood for a very offbeat, primary color saturated action flick set in a very strange hybrid of the 50’s and the 80’s and peppered with some great songs from a mythical rock and roll band, these streets really are on FIRE and blaze to a solid B.

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