Sunday, July 23, 2006

Guiltless Review: Streets of Fire

Tonight is what it means to be young

Streets of Fire is just about the perfect example to illustrate my philosophy of film appreciation. This movie came up in a conversation with some friends a few months ago, and as soon as the title 'Streets of Fire' came up I instantly remembered almost everything about it. I hadn't seen SoF in 20 years and truth be told, it was not a movie I even rewatched often as a kid in the mid-80's. Anything that leaves that kind of impression on my brain is definitely worth something.

This is a classic love it or hate it movie, and even if you do hate it, it's a movie you won't forget. If you haven't seen Streets of Fire and are wondering what camp you are likely to fall in, please refer to my handy guide below:

You will hate Streets of Fire if you:
- Are anally insistent on 'reality' in movies
- Can't handle fantasy settings that are not specified beyond the words: "Another Time, Another Place"
- The words: "A Rock & Roll Fable" frighten and confuse you
- Are easily freaked out by Willem Dafoe
- Don't appreciate the musical arrangements of the great Jim Steinman (writer for Meatloaf and Bonnie Tyler among others)
- Are easily distracted by cliched dialogue

You will love Streets of Fire if you:
- Are just looking for a good time
- Are not a dorky film student looking to pick apart every little thing and can appreciate the gestalt
- Always wanted to see Rick Moranis play a rat bastard
- Think Jim Steinman rawks!
- Are impressed by gorgeous art direction and cinematography
- Enjoy watching single shotgun shells cause massive explosions

I think that about covers it; for my part, put me unequivocally in the 'love it' camp, I rewatched Streets of Fire yesterday and it hasn't lost a thing.

In a strange fantasty cityscape, rock star Ellen Aim (Diane Lane) gets kidnapped by a biker gang led by Raven Shaddock (Willem Dafoe). Ultra-cliched tough guy & ex-boyfriend Tom Cody (Micael Pare) sets off to take her back. Not much happens besides that, but this movie is all about style and not plot intricacies.

Resonance: 10
I've talked about this already in the introduction but to re-iterate: this movie is a visceral experience that just stays with you.

Immersion: 11
The unique setting can be described as an urban dystopia that features a combination of 50's & 80's design elements, it's like nothing else that's been put in a movie. The soundtrack, featuring 2 of Jim Steinman's best Wagnerian rock ditties is a classic. The aforementioned cinematography is simply beautiful, every composition on-screen has been put together with loving care. This is a movie I paused often just to admire some of the still shots. And to top it off, the action moves at a brisk pace never allowing you to remember where you really are. Good luck turning off Streets of Fire once you hear the opening notes of "Nowhere Fast" (song featured during the opening scene).

Laughs: 3
If I had to cite one thing I'd wish were better in SoF, it'd be the lack of humor, particularly in the middle 30 min of the movie. This is a movie that is just pure fun, and the lack of humor becomes noticeable when the plot settles down on the primary protagonists. Doesn't kill the movie, just wish it had a few more laughs.

Investment: 6
The characters are totally cliche by design. While the sterotypical tough guy talk ("You know, the problem with kickin' the *beep* out of you is it would be too easy") is fun if you get into it, I admit it can get a little repetetive at times. There is no attempt to develop the characters beyond their two-dimensional surfaces. That being said, I still had no problems wanting the good guys to win here.

Thrills: 6
Sledgehammer Fight! Exploding motorcycles! Assorted beatings and mayhem! Somehow nobody dies, the violence here is totally of the safe, cartoonish variety; still fun though.

Bizareness: 10
Ok, you've probably figured out by now that this entire movie is weird as hell, but let me add one more morsel to the cookie dough.

Willem Dafoe in the best possible light is an odd looking dude. However, in Streets of Fire it's like they've taken every one of his most distinctive features (his broad forehead, his protruding lips) and accentuated them to the nth degree. The end result resembles a fully human-sized ventriloquist dummy crossed with Frankenstein's monster. If SoF had been made this century (the movie was released in 1984), I'd swear there was cgi work involved so big kudos to the makeup department; I wouldn't want to run into Raven Shaddock in a dark alley.

Final Word:
Rewatching Streets of Fire really brought me back and gave me an urge to rewatch it immediately. The songs are now careening around in my head. If you can appreciate the pure style on display here you'll have a great time.

Bonus Tracks!
Some Streets of Fire videos on Youtube!
Nowhere Fast

Tonight is What it Means to be Young

In Japanese even!
Tonight is What it Means to be Young in Japanese


Roe said...

I LOVED this movie! Now you've got me in the mood to see it again... off to Best Buy I go...

Stacey said...

Willem DaFoe scares me...

Chris said...

He will scare you more after you see this movie.

Has Adam gotten you to see it yet?

Roe said...

I have the 45s for I Can Dream About You and Tonight Is What It Means to Be Young.

Chris said...

That is awesome Roe!

Did you ever take the 80s music quiz?

I remember Lore had the highest score.

Roe said...

No, where's the link?

Stacey said...

Yep, made me watch it...

Chris said...


Didn't it change your life?

Chris said...

80's music quiz is here:

Stacey said...

This test is my greatest fear, and I am a failure...

Lauren said...

I got a 74.5 is that good?

Lore said...

The score to beat is 112.

I had to stop myself from taking it again and artificially raising my score, since I remember the ones I got wrong.

Lore said...

Because that brings me up to 126.5, and that's just wrong.

(Sorry, it is my claim to fame and therefore I must milk it)

Chris said...

you just couldn't resist could you?

Roe said...

I got a 136...

Lore said...

I had a feeling you'd bring me down...

I bow to you :)

Roe said...

LOL, more like 'be afraid... be very afraid...' I was scared as hell of myself.

Roe said...

...and, I'm clearly a getting-older fart. hee hee.

Chris said...

I thought Roe had a chance at that mark - grats!

Any of you ever consider going on that Pop Culture Quiz show on VH-1? I bet we'd kick ass.

Roe said...

I had that same thought watching the World Series of Pop Culture, I say we do it.

Lore said...

I'm in! We need a funny 80's sounding name...