Streets of Fire (1984)

streets of fire

“Well! Looks like I finally found someone who likes to play as rough as I do.”

The Scoop: 1984 PG, directed by Walter Hill and starring Michael Paré, Diane Lane and Rick Moranis

Tagline: A Rock and Roll Fable.

Summary Capsule: Bikes go BOOM! Neon! Neon! Rock n’ Roll!

Deneb’s rating: Err… Did I mention the bikes going BOOM?

Deneb’s review: Streets of Fire is a strange beastie, movie-wise. It’s probably one of the purest examples of a cult film I’ve come across so far, ‘cause really, you are either going to seriously dig this thing, or… well, you won’t. Some don’t. I do.

First, a plot synopsis. The story is set in a fictional city that never gets named (a review I read elsewhere called it Bay City, but I can’t recall ever hearing that name while watching it). Beautiful rocker-on-the rise Ellen Aim (Diane Lane), of the band Ellen Aim and the Attackers, has returned to the Richmond, her old neighborhood, for a benefit performance. Unfortunately, this draws the lecherous attention of one Raven Shaddock (Willem Dafoe), leader of the Bombers, a powerful biker gang. Raven kidnaps Ellen for purposes too terrible to mention, and busts up the neighborhood somethin’ fierce in the process.

All is not lost, however, for Ellen has an old flame, Tom Cody (Michael Paré) who’s just out of the army and might be up to the task of rescuing her. He’s willing to do it, too – for a fee. Said fee is provided by one Billy Fish (Rick Moranis), Ellen’s manager, and one of the most eminently insultable men ever to appear onscreen. Along with McCoy (Amy Madigan), a capital-letters Tough Chick and fellow ex-soldier, they set out to do the job.

That’s it.

Trust me, I’m not ruining a thing.

Let’s start with the bad stuff. The plot is paper-thin – if you’re a fan of ingenious plot twists and out-of-nowhere revelations, well, sorry, but you will not find them here. Bad guy kidnaps good guy’s girl, good guy rescues her, end of story. The good guys stay good, the bad guys stay bad, and everyone is exactly who they appear to be. Moreover, if you’re in a puppies-and-rainbows sort of mood, stay the hell away from this movie, because it will not give you what you’re looking for, unless you want those puppies and rainbows to explode in a giant fireball while rock music plays in the background. This is not a movie that grins, this is a movie that snarls.

So why should you see it, then?

Well, first off, because it rocks.

I mean this literally. The film ain’t kiddin’ when it calls itself a “Rock and Roll fable” – this movie has a fantastic soundtrack if you have even the slightest interest in rock music. I’m not really a rock fan, overall, and even I can’t help boogying in my seat as I watch this thing.  Streets of Fire starts with a rock performance, ends with one, and has few minutes in between that don’t feature a rock song of some sort. Naturally, it won’t be to everybody’s taste – if you’re a devotee of punk music, for example, you may find yourself going ‘meh’ – but man, it got me goin’.

Second – how shall I put this? This movie just oozes cool. It’s set in a world that’s some bizarre mishmash of 50s and 80s, where neon and greasy Elvis hairdos go cheek-and-cheek, and that’s cool. It’s got cool old cars, and that’s cool. It’s got wild, crazy villains and tough, take-no-crap heroes, and that’s cool, too. It’s got great big explosions and sexy, sexy Diane Lane, and crazy-scary Willem Dafoe wearing leather overalls for no particular reason, and dialogue that consists entirely of tough-guy one-liners (seriously – check out the quotes section), and… and… You get where I’m going with this, right?

Also, I need to say a word here about Rick Moranis. You know who he is, right? He’s the nerdy guy in Ghostbusters and all those other movies. Well, he is unrecognizable here, and I mean that in the best way possible. He is the most obnoxious, foul-mouthed little jerk imaginable, to the point where you just want to see him get smacked one in the chops – and it happens! Several times! And it’s great! And yet somehow, you still buy him as a good guy! I mean, in any other movie, Billy Fish would be the anchor that sent the whole affair plunging down to the depths, but not here. It’s really rather amazing.

Basically, if you’re feeling like you don’t have enough fast cars and beautiful women and bikes blowing up and catchy Rockabilly music in your life, see this movie. It will correct the deficiency.

This is a test. If your reaction to this picture is ‘whoa, cool’, you will like this movie, and Tom Cody will buy you a beer. If not, you won’t, and he’ll blow up your bike.

Intermission!

  • Punk rocker Lee Ving plays Raven Shaddock’s second-in-command. Personally, I have no idea who Lee Ving is, but for those who do, there he be.
  • This was originally going to be the first film in a trilogy of Tom Cody movies, but low box office scratched that.
  • This film was very popular and influential in Japan, and was apparently a great influence on the look and feel of several Anime series, most prominently ‘Bubblegum Crisis’.

Groovy Quotes

Reva: Well, you guys really know how to come through a door.

Tom Cody: Try it again, punk.

Tom Cody: There’s no point in stealing a car if you’re not going to wring it out.

Reva: When are you ever going to grow up?
Tom Cody: Why should I? This is more fun!

McCoy: Everywhere I go, there’s always an a__hole.

Tom Cody: You smart guys. You always think you can hire a bum like me to do your dirty work. Well, not this time!

McCoy: You know, it’s hard to figure out what’s more pathetic – the way you talk or the way you dress.

Bum in Alleyway: Oh, you’re dumb. And you’re short. Real short.

Billy Fish: Go buy some soap!

Raven Shaddock: Y’see, I ain’t such a bad guy. I just… get excited around pretty girls.

McCoy: Guys, it’s been a slice!

Raven Shaddock: Well! Looks like I finally found someone who likes to play as rough as I do.
Tom Cody: Yeah, this must be your lucky night.
Raven Shaddock: I’m lucky? I guess maybe I am. And you’re dumb – real dumb if you think you can pull this off.
Tom Cody: I think you’re forgetting somethin’ – I got the gun.
Raven Shaddock: I can get guns, smart guy, lots of ‘em. Now why don’t you tell me your name?
Tom Cody: Tom Cody. Pleased to meet ya.
Raven Shaddock: I’ll be comin’ for her. And I’ll be comin’ for you, too.
Tom Cody: Sure you will. And I’ll be waiting.

McCoy: You know, some of you guys have some cute little asses. It’d be a real shame if I had to blow ‘em off.

Tom Cody: The only trouble with kickin’ the s__t outta you is it would be too easy.

Bird: Now look – let me make it real clear. Nobody tells me where to take my bus. You dig? (Tom Cody reveals his gun) But we’re very flexible!

Billy Fish: You know something, Waldo? We’re gonna be rich.
Waldo: Yeah. Long live rock n’ roll.

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