STREETS OF FIRE (1984) A misguided exercise in egomania and excess with Michael Pare and Diane Lane.

streetsoffire_usposter01Theme Song:


“Tonight is What it Means to be Young” by Fire Inc. and produced by Jim Steinman (in case you couldn’t tell). Yes, Jim Steinman of Bat out of Hell and Bad for Good fame. In fact he wrote and produced a few songs on the soundtrack. Ry Cooder also did a pretty odd score, but none of that wound up on the soundtrack album.

Interesting Dated References: The movie Streets of Fire is in and of itself a dated reference to bad ideas that got lots of financial backing in the 80s when everyone was high on cocaine. Most notably the fact that this movie was to be part of a trilogy that was immediately cancelled when this film bombed at the box office.

Best Line: “Everywhere I go, there’s always an asshole.”

Social Context: If you read about this movie on the internet it’s revealed that this was supposed to be part of a trilogy. For awhile trilogy-fever was sweeping the nation and every film director was either starting on or about to start a trilogy. This was in the early 80s. Luckily, movies like this tanked, ending trilogy-fever in America. This was good for most things, but was bad if you were a big fan of the still unfinished Cocoon Trilogy, like myself. And yes, nowadays trilogy-fever has once again engrossed Hollywood.

Summary: The Warriors is one of those movies that captured a perfect balance of fantasy and reality. Those elements, along with excellent costumes and actors combined together to form one of the first and great “cult films” of that era. For many years, The Warriors stood the test of time as a film that perfectly captured an era. Of course, once we got into the 00’s we got a shitty video game based on the movie, and worst of all, a shitty revision of the film that added shitty comic book style transitions to various scenes. But of course, years from now that’s what the 00’s will be remembered as: The decade when we ruined all the good old things by trying to remake/re-edit it strictly for monetary gain. And who was the man responsible for this incredibly original film, as well as its shitty 21st century cash in? Well that would be the writer and director of Streets of Fire, Walter Hill.

Only one thing appears clear, the 00s Warriors cash-in wasn’t Hill’s first attempt at recapturing some of the glory of The Warriors. No, Hill tried before, back in 1984 when he wrote and directed Streets of Fire, a movie that has no balance of fantasy or reality, no cool costumes and most importantly, no good acting. Hill’s writing credits include several movies your dad really liked, such as The Drowning Pool, 48 Hrs. , Aliens, and Red Heat. Yet Streets of Fire remains a misguided exercise in egomania and excess. So what happened, you ask? Probably more cocaine that you can shake a stick at, but aside from that, let’s dig deeper.

The movie starts off all neo-futuristic with 50’s doo-wop-sock-hop clothing mixed into Blade Runner-esque urban setting. It’s like someone told Hill to write a script that would look like Hairspray, Grease, Blade Runner, and The Warriors were all in a giant orgy. We travel through the streets a bit, and then see Diane Lane singing a song on a stage. The band looks like the 50s, the music sounds like the Meatloaf, and Rick Moranis is her manager. She sings her for like 5 minutes and some ominous biker gang enters the auditorium. The leader of the gang is Willem Dafoe.

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He didn’t even get a credit on the box. So, the gang abducts Lane and breaks a bunch of glass as they speed away.

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Also, Lee Ving of the band Fear is one of the henchmen from the biker gang. This would be a bigger deal if I had worse taste in music, but I don’t, so it isn’t. We haven’t even gotten to the opening credits yet.

Moving on, over the opening credits we see Michael Pare (of Eddie and The Cruisers fame) coming into town. Then there is a fight between Pare (who is dressed like an Irish immigrant) and bunch of Fonzie look-alikes.

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All the while, there’s a blazing sax solo going, which may or may not have anything to do with Lee Ving being in the movie. Did I mention all the freeze-frames and stupid-ass screen transition/swipe effects going on? Well yeah, I’m serious. Then Pare takes a waitress and goes speeding. They even get pulled over by a cop and a bunch of saxaphoney-jukebox music happens.

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Then there’s Bill Paxton, the bartender. He’s wearing zoot suit pants. They must have been telling Pare to act “cold and emotionless,” but really he just comes off bored. So after the bar and picking up a friend, he goes home and envisions Diane Lane singing in black and white. Apparently this is Pare’s ex-girlfriend and he has decided to rescue her.

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So Moranis and Pare team up with the Amy Madigan to go find Diane Lane. Moranis keeps calling all the girls “skirts,” which I’m a big fan of. Evidence of Pare’s bored acting:

So they go to this club and we have to put up with another ridiculous music number while Dafoe intimidates Lane. Moranis, Pare, and Madigan formulate some type of plan so they can sneak into this bar and rescue Lane. They shoot up the club, make some explosions, and rescue Lane.

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Doesn’t Dafoe look really young? I have a sweet spot for him ever since his episode of Fishing With John. Lane and Pare fight about their past relationship, there’s some more musical numbers, etc, etc. Then the group is on the run so they adopt Dottie from Pee Wee’s Big Adventure and hijack a bus full of five black guys, one of whom is Jamie Foxx (even though it doesn’t say so in the credits, I’m sure it’s him). After a doo-wop number, the group makes it through a police checkpoint by blowing stuff up and return home. Queue the retaliation by the biker gang and a bunch of other pointless conversations. Somewhere in there Pare and Lane have sexual intercourse while covered in all kinds of sheets and without being naked.

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I think somewhere they explained why they wanted to kidnap her. Then there’s a big fight showdown that lasts like 40 minutes. Pare wins. Then there are like four closing musical numbers that go on forever. Some people would probably describe this movie as, “A fun romp into a neo-futuristic-retro world with lots of young acting faces and excellent Jim Steinman soundtrack; an obscure little gem worth checking out.” Those people are assholes.

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Postscript: Upon rewinding this motion picture tape, it became jammed in my Betamax and took approximately 15 minutes to be pried out.

Poster and Box Art: I’ve struggled with this box art for awhile. It’s a nice original drawing done in a very unique style.

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Above is another example of the extensive original art that was created for this movie. Yes, it is excellent, but I can’t get past the movie to enjoy it.

Availability: This has been reissued on DVD that you can buy from Amazon. In fact, no shit, it has even be reissued on the now deadHD-DVD format, but still no Blu-ray. Here I am mocking HD-DVD as I review the movie on Betamax.

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