Film Review – Streets of Fire (1984)

Title – Streets of Fire (1984) 

Director – Walter Hill (Southern Comfort

Cast – Michael Paré, Diane Lane, Rick Moranis, Amy Madigan, Bill Paxton, Willem Dafoe 

Plot – Ex-soldier turned mercenary for hire Tom Cody (Pare) is tasked by band manager Billy Fish (Moranis) to track down and rescue his star act Ellen Aim (Lane), Cody’s ex-girlfriend who has been kidnapped by a motorcycle gang ran by the nefarious Raven (Dafoe).    

“A long time ago I woulda thought you were worth it. Not anymore, babe”

Review by Eddie on 01/09/2021

One of the biggest examples of an “almost” film you’re likely to see, Walter Hill’s genre mash-up of thriller, drama, musical and neon-soak western Streets of Fire was designed as a “Rock n Roll fable” that was tag-lined as “Tonight is what it means to be young” but this rarely spoken about oddity was a failed franchise starter that wasn’t quite able to get all elements humming in harmony, despite it still being a unique and important part of Hill’s often undervalued filmography. 

Regarded in cinema circles for his work behind the camera on films such as Southern Comfort, The Warriors and 48 Hrs. as well as a being key figure behind the classic Alien series, Hill has had an incredibly diverse and original journey in Hollywood, with his passion project here one that looked to combine some of the writer/directors favorite cinematic staples into one entertaining package but you can see throughout the entirety of the film the struggle that it faces to be so many things all at once as the film only ever gels together in brief but memorable moments. 

Taking place in a rain drenched unnamed city (with the films rain effects eating into a large chunk of the movies budget), Fire kicks things off with a fully-fledged concert performance from Diane Lane’s Ellen Aim, who is briskly kidnapped mid-performance by Willem Dafoe’s Raven and his gang of motorbike riding hoodlums, only to find herself planned to be rescued by her ex-boyfriend Tom Cody (Michael Pare in one of his biggest lead turns) and a motley crew, with the film barely pausing for breath between songs, beat-ups, one liners and Dafoe’s latex outfits. 

It’s an insane hybrid of ideas and moments, the film is about as 80’s as you’d get with Ry Cooder’s score, the Blade Runner like sets and fashion all well and truly of the era but you can also sense the Western influences on the film with Cody’s trench coach sporting ex-soldier turned mercenary the type of character you could see being created with Clint Eastwood in mind, while the Rock and Roll undertones (and Rick Moranis supporting turn) other components to a film that wanted to reach for the stars and do things its own way, only to find itself treading water in the middle ground on its way too being an entertaining conjuring that didn’t cast the spell it wanted to. 

For all its failure’s too properly launch or stick the landing, there’s little doubt that Fire is one of the more ambitious box office disasters of the 80’s, one that provides to this day a solid viewing alternative to modern day affairs that can often be produce of a tired and copycat heavy system, with Hill’s film further proof that the Hollywood legend is a director that walked his on path to create products for the ages.

Final Say – 

It’s not the slam dunk you’d hope it too be but this undervalued piece of 80’s cinema is unlike anything you’ve ever seen before or since with Streets of Fire a film you need to watch to understand. 

3 concert posters out of 5 

7 responses to “Film Review – Streets of Fire (1984)

  1. I like Hill’s movies usually. I’d like to discover this even if it seems it has some flaws. It looks quite close to The Warriors, like another street fighting criminal story.

  2. I kinda love this movie. Its so wildly its own thing its easy to admire for all its flaws. The score is terrific, the lead is a charisma vacuum who can’t act, its all sorts of wrong but its also kind of brilliant.

    • I enjoyed my time with it. In some ways frustrating too watch as I could see moments where it was really close to be something great and some of its ideas left unexplored but its great in its uniqueness.
      E

  3. I’m glad to see some appreciation for Walter Hill. He’s one of those directors with a diverse and unique filmography that I need to check out more of (plan to watch The Long Riders pretty soon).

    I really dig Streets of Fire. It’s very entertaining, and I like it for being a hodgepodge of different genres and ideas. It’s part western, part 50s biker movie, and at the same time, oh so very 80s. I dig Michael Pare, Rick Moranis was good (it’s interesting to see a character that has a bit of a backbone), and Willem Dafoe is always a great villain.

    I own the Shout! Factory Steelbook of this movie, so I might give it a watch this week.

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