'A Rock & Roll Fable'

Streets of Fire is something of a cult classic. It was released in 1984 and directed by Walter Hill, and stars Michael Parre, Diane Lane, Rick Moranis, Amy Madigan, and Willem Dafoe.

Tom Cody (Parre) is the classic anti-hero, a former soldier whose sister calls him home when his ex, a minor rock goddess named Ellen Aim (Lane) is kidnapped by the awesomely slimy Raven (Dafoe - who dons rubber overalls for the part). Ellen's manager, Billy Fish (Moranis) hires tom to track her down, unaware of their previous romantic entanglement.

All this proceeds in a fairly predictable manner - they fight, they blow things up, they get the girl, the villains come after the hero, the villains are summarily dispatched, Cody takes the next train out of town. It's been compared to a western, not only because cody is so understated, but due to the presence of other cowboy movie staples - the cops want him to leave town before the fight, he leaves town after the fight, despite the protestations of Ellen, who, predictably, wants him back. And there's Fish, geeky and anal, who provides an ideal counterpoint to Tom Cody the hardass. At one point, a homeless man (Ed Begley, Jr.) describes Fish thusly: "Oh you're dumb. And you're short. Real short."

The peripheral characters introduced throughout the movie do a little to help with the story - Madigan as McCoy, another ex-soldier who reacts violently to any challenge, Bill Paxton as a bartender who has the misfortune to engage her wrath, the R&B band whose bus the group steals on their way out of 'The Battery' (the bad part of town where Raven's gang hides out), the ditzy blond teenage fan who follows Ellen everywhere. But most of the acting is just plain bad and the cameos contribute little more than novelty.

The plot is bad. That's not unfair, it's just honest. But it doesn't matter. Streets of Fire manages to do a brilliant job of portraying the mythic cliches of rock and roll. Nearly the whole film is shot at night - they used a gigantic tent in shooting the film so they wouldn't have to stop during the day. Neon reflects off of puddles in the street. Cars are shiny and smooth and the sets are almost pure 50s iconography. Railroad tracks cut through everything and biker gangs roam the streets in loud packs.

granted, it's a B movie, but it's a damned fine one.

..Of course, no good rock fable is complete without a good rock soundtrack:

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