It’s difficult to explain “Streets of Fire” to anyone and make it sound coherent. Walter Hill’s action film has just about everything, and ends up creating one of the most vivid and exciting amalgams of genres and themes I’ve ever seen. “Streets of Fire” is a film you just have to sit down, shut up, and experience. It’s a post depression, mid-fifties, action, crime thriller and romance noir with a rock and roll and soul beat. See? I can’t sum this movie up in one whole sentence, and I’m not going to try to. I’m ashamed I took so many years getting around to watching “Streets of Fire,” but goddamn I’m very glad that I did.
At the end of the day it’s the simplicity of its themes about romance lost in a time of war and economic turmoil that will reach down to audiences. Set in the slums of a city in America, star singer and rock star Ellen Aim, as played by an absolutely ravishing Diane Lane, is kidnapped by biker Raven Shaddock. After storming her concert and taking her hostage, Aim’s boyfriend and manager Billy Fish is at a loss with how to get her back. Local diner owner Reva writes her brother and former soldier Tom Cody and begs him to come in to town and save Ellen. Ellen is Tom’s former lover who he fell hard for once upon a time, and takes it upon himself to ride in to town.
Learning that the local neighborhood Reva lives in is being terrorized by Raven and his biker gang, Tom agrees to help the locals out, as well as save his ex-lover before she is victimized by Raven. Michael Pare gives a fantastic performance as the noble and grizzled Tom Cody, who strolls in to town in a shroud of silence. Once he witnesses just how terrible the situation has become, Tom becomes an accidental savior for the city. Raiding Raven’s home base and seeking to dismantle his operations, Tom remembers the passionate love he had for Ellen Aim. Along the way Hill builds up colorful myriad characters we root for and against.
From McCoy as the butch female sidekick to Tom, Bill Fish the slick con man, to the slimy Raven who gets a kick out of reeking havoc. With his satanic pompadour and hissing dialogue, he’s a perfect nemesis and adds an air of menace and terror when pitted against Tom. “Streets of Fire” has such electricity, and unique energy that has long outgrown its initial decade. Hill’s luster of action and gang warfare is carried over from “The Warriors” right in to his tale of a lone hero battling a massive biker gang. Hill even carries over themes of gang dominance and the law being seemingly outmatched and outnumbered by the rampant crime.
“Streets of Fire” never lingers on one whole element of the film, offering a picking of exciting action, a dynamic love story that Pare and Lane pull off, and a wonderful soundtrack that breathes life in to a film that could have fallen victim to its grim setting. Songs like “Sorcerer” and “I Can Dream About You” are bang up rock and roll tunes that turn the music in to as much of a character a Tom or Ellen. “Streets of Fire” is a marvelous artifact of the eighties; it is stellar action cinema that thinks outside the box and it’s worth watching again and again.