“Tonight is What it Means to be Young!”
In a just world, Walter Hills 1984 rock-n-roll epic Streets of Fire would’ve been a smash hit, inspiring at least two sequels that took its colorful, comic book-like characters down more neon lit streets into more rough and tumble adventures. But this isn’t a just world, and Streets of Fire flopped and seemingly faded into obscurity. But it was ripe for cult status, and over the years a committed fandom rose-up around the film. And now it arrives on Blu-ray in a new collector’s edition from Shout! Factory’s Shout Select off-shoot.
After one hell of an opening featuring a performance from Ellen Aim (Diane Lane) and The Attackers, a gang of leather wearing motorcycle hoods, lead by a demonic-looking Willem Dafoe, bursts into the club where Ellen is performing and kidnaps her right in front of the sold-out crowd. Streets of Fire exists in some sort of alternate universe, where eras — mostly the 1950s but also the 80s — blend together, and the police seem utterly helpless to stop a gang of thugs from abducting a pop start in front of all her fans. Thankfully, Ellen’s ex-boyfriend, the mumbly Tom Cody (Michael Paré) shows up in town. Soon, Tom is teamed-up with McCoy (Amy Madigan), an ex-solider with a silly hat and a predilection for beating the hell out of people. Tom is recruited to get Ellen back by her bow-tie sporting manager Billy Fish (Rick Moranis!), and soon Tom, McCoy, Billy and more are headed into the wrong part of town to kick some ass.
Hill is a filmmaker who thrives on gritty violence, yet he can also tilt towards the fanciful, most famously with his film The Warriors. Streets of Fire is cut from the same cloth as The Warriors, in that it’s not moored in, or even concerned with, the real world. Hill wanted to make a comic book movie, but didn’t actually like any pre-existing comic book characters. His solution was to conjure up Streets of Fire with co-writer Larry Gross. The end result is like a rock and roll take on Warren Beatty’s Dick Tracy adaptation, with over-the-top characters clashing with strong-jawed heroes.
It’s not perfect. The biggest problem Streets of Fire has is lead actor Michael Paré, who is completely lifeless as Tom Cody. Even as a character, Cody is a bit of a stiff, with nothing going for him other than the fact that he’s good at fighting. Thankfully, the rest of the cast and characters all outshine Paré, particularly Madigan, who steals almost the entire film as Tom’s sidekick McCoy. Moranis, who allegedly didn’t enjoy making the film, is also a stand-out as the frequently annoyed Billy Fish — and his wardrobe is stellar. Then there’s Dafoe, who lets his greaser haircut and malicious sneer do most of the heavy lifting. Lane doesn’t have much to do except wait around to be rescued, but her opening scene where she commands the stage is a show-stopper.
There’s a wonderful energy to Streets of Fire — the film is bustling with life and excitement, and it leaves you longing for more. You wish that Hill had been able to expand this world further. In some ways, the film was ahead of its time — predicting the stylized editing that music videos would popularize as MTV rose to prominence. In the end, though, Streets of Fire is now what it seemingly was destined to be: a cult classic. The type of film for a select few to rave excitedly about while others stand on the sidelines, perplexed.
The Shout! Factory release of Streets of Fire is available now. Check out the special features below.
- NEW 2K Scan Of The Interpositive
- NEW SHOTGUNS & SIX STRINGS: The Making Of A Rock N Roll Fable – A Feature-Length Documentary Featuring Interviews With Director/Co-writer Walter Hill, Producer Lawrence Gordon, Actors Michael Paré, Deborah Van Valkenburgh, Richard Lawson, Elizabeth Daily, Lee Ving, Screenwriter Larry Gross, Editor Freeman Davies, Associate Producer Mae Woods, Art Director James Allen, Costume Designer Marilyn Vance, Assistant Director David Sosna, Choreographer Jeffrey Hornaday, Sound Editor Richard Anderson, Music Producer Kenny Vance And Many More…
- RUMBLE ON THE LOT: Walter Hill’s Streets Of Fire Revisited – A Feature-Length Documentary Featuring Interviews With Director/Co-writer Walter Hill, Actor Michael Paré, Amy Madigan And Art Director James Allen
- Vintage Featurettes: Rock And Roll Fable, Exaggerated Realism, Choreographing The Crowd, Creating The Costumes, From The Ground Up
- Music Videos
- Theatrical Trailer
- On Air Promos
- Still Gallery