Streets of Fire (1984) starring Michael Paré, Diane Lane, Rick Moranis, Amy Madigan, Willem Dafoe, Deborah Van Valkenburgh, Bill Paxton directed by Walter Hill - movie review on The Movie Scene

Streets of Fire (1984)   3/53/53/53/53/5


Diane Lane as Ellen Aim in Streets of Fire

Take Aim as Lane is on Fire

I am sure "Streets of Fire" was not made to be intentionally humorous but it's impossible not to laugh when you shouldn't. With it's 80's hair styles, 80's fashions, 80's actions, 80's macho BS dialogue and an 80's rock soundtrack more suited to a Meatloaf concert it is one of the corniest movies I have ever watched. But then it's entertaining for all the wrong reasons, making you want to watch it not because there is an amazing storyline or great performances from a cast which features Diane Lane, Willem Dafoe as well as Rick Moranis but because it's amusing in a sort of tacky way.

When Rock diva Ellen Aim (Diane Lane - Rumble Fish) is kidnapped during a concert by a biker gang lead by the evil Raven (Willem Dafoe - American Dreamz), ex boyfriend and mercenary Tom Cody (Michael Paré - Hope Floats) returns to town to try and rescue Ellen with the aid of tomboy McCoy (Amy Madigan - Uncle Buck) and her manager Billy Fish (Rick Moranis - Honey I Blew Up the Kid). But it's never going to be easy with past emotions returning and Raven set on getting his way.

Willem Dafoe as Raven Shaddock in Streets of Fire

Right from the start there is nothing exceptional about "Streets of Fire" the storyline is your basic lone mercenary returning to save the day, combining it with a semi romantic storyline and then throws some basic fight sequences into the mix. Although the special effects, when things get blown up, are quite impressive considering when this was made. Think "Escape from New York" and you will get the rough idea of what to expect. But the way it all comes across is what makes "Streets of Fire" such good fun.

The setting for "Streets of Fire" so we are informed before the movie starts is "another time and place", which to be honest looks like 50s/60s New York except it's had an overdose of neon lighting giving it a rather strange but entertaining blend of 50's and 80's. It's hard to decide if it's meant to be a futuristic movie or an alternate retro reality as classic American cars get driven through the dirty streets peppered by bright colours. It's the first of many things which I am sure was designed to be clever but ends up making you laugh in it's rather quirky uniqueness.

Talking of quirky uniqueness there is the casting of Rick Moranis who plays it straight as Billy Fish, Ellen Aim's manager and lover which in itself is quite laughable because not wanting to be nasty but the pairing of the seriously hot Diane Lane with the geeky Moranis is not the most likely or believable of partnerships. But if that wasn't bad enough it's just impossible to take Moranis seriously even when he's not playing it for laughs, there just something about him, that slightly geeky look which is simply funny.

Then there is the Rock & Roll side of the movie, well it does proclaim to be a "Rock & Roll fable" and the music certainly feels like it's come out of Meatloaf's back catalogue of hits with more than touch of Rock Opera about it. Diane Lane is pretty convincing as Rock diva Ellen Aim which is a good thing as for some strange reason director Walter Hill includes a lot of stage footage of Ellen in concert, giving it at times a feeling of watching a recording of a gig rather than a movie. But whilst Lane's on fire as a Rock chick, looking sexy as ever the actual rock songs are quite laughable with that 80's rock ballad feel. Add to this you then have the rather strange mix of a blues soundtrack provided by Ry Cooder who would go on to work with Walter Hill again a couple of years later in blues movie "Crossroads". Whilst the blues incidental music is enjoyable it doesn't always blend well with the rockier side of the movie, giving it a rather peculiar feeling.

Add to this you have the macho action side of the movie with Michael Paré playing mercenary Tom Cody who returns on the wishes of his sister to rescue Ellen, who just happens to be his ex love. Strangely Paré sounds a lot like Sylvester Stallone especially when delivering some corny dialogue which would have been just at home in one of Stallone's action romps. It's a stereotypical character, the lone guy who comes to rescue the day and with all the quasi macho stand offs it's all unintentionally amusing, especially in the fight sequences which are so tacky that again you find yourself laughing when I am sure you shouldn't. Making it even more of a cliche is that Cody ends up picking up a side kick in the form of tough talking tom boy McCoy played by Amy Madigan. The pairing works surprisingly well but it's all the faux macho dialogue and action sequences which makes it all cheesily amusing.

But finally and to crown off this amusing 80's action romp you have the bad guys, a gang of latex and leather wearing bikers lead by Willem Dafoe as Raven. Now yes they are in one sense the classic biker baddies a big pack of brooding men in leather carrying weapons, but the penchant for latex makes them funny, especially in the case of the incredibly pasty looking Dafoe who in the scene when he strips to his latex vest looks in desperate need of some vitamins and a dose of sun. It's just unintentionally funny and it's seriously hard to be convinced that Willem Dafoe is a bad guy, despite a lot of face pulling.

What this all boils down to is that "Streets of Fire" technically is a bad movie, extremely cliche which lacks to convince as a real action movie. But then it's so unintentionally funny that it becomes good fun and memorable, you are drawn into the movie by all those moments which are played seriously but end up making you laugh. In many ways you lose interest in the storyline, it becomes insignificant because it's predictable, but you watch for the next cliche moment which brings unintentional amusement.


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