STREETS OF RAGE
Those familiar with Walter Hill’s filmography will also be aware of how the director and screenwriter became an integral part of late seventies, early eighties cult moviemaking. With titles such as The Driver (1978), The Warriors (1979) and Southern Comfort (1981) Hill’s work has grasped hold of generations of viewers with its dark, grimy, and inherently masculine style of storytelling. Standing toe-to-toe with directors such as John Carpenter during the era – visually, musically and tonally there is much overlap between the directors’ work – Hill’s pictures have managed to retain their impactful edge through numerous late-night television re-runs and home-video re-releases – offering perfect examples of how to craft a truly menacing dystopian future on the big screen.
Despite boasting a cast loaded with names who would go on to become some of the biggest stars of film, including Bill Paxton, Diane Lane, and Willem Dafoe, Streets of Fire is most likely the Walter Hill film you’ve never seen – and that’s a great shame. Part MTV generation celebration, part contemporary action-packed western, Hill’s tale of drifter Tom Cody (Michael Paré) and his quest to rescue his ex-girlfriend from violent biker gang leader Raven (Willem Dafoe), is one which deserves its turn in the spotlight. Following Hill’s classic, The Warriors, and his depiction of the eponymous gang’s nerve-shredding journey back to Coney Island upon a perilous New York night, Streets of Fire’s similar narrative feels somewhat borrowed – but ultimately there is enough style to justify a lack of original substance.
The eighties neo-noir melodrama is present in spades, permeating every line of machismo dripping dialogue – especially those uttered by the remarkably deep action-hero drawl of Michael Paré’s duster wearing gunslinger, Cody. At times such overwhelming amounts of bravado stray into a territory which is distinctly cheesy but it somehow feels fitting in the bizarre dystopia Hill crafted. Filled with a collection of 1950’s symbolism such as greaser gangs, cherry red convertibles and preppy costume design, to occupy the smoke and fire filled streets of a crime ridden near-future, the film is an accomplished and eye-catching portrait of a fictional society in decline.
Fans of Carpenter’s Escape from New York and Hill’s more prominent work will find Streets of Fire has much to offer, for the uninitiated this attractive Blu-ray release full of bonus features, is still a worthy addition to the collections of action fans and cult cinema buffs. The action set-pieces are suitably bombastic, there’s a soundtrack from blues legend Ry Cooder, and where else can you see a young leather-clad Willem Dafoe partake in a sledgehammer duel? Nowhere, that’s where.