Studio: Universal Studios.
US Rating: PG
Film Length: 1hr 34 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Video Resolution/Codec: 1080p/VC-1
Audio: English Dolby Digital Plus 5.1, French Dolby Digital Plus 2.0
Subtitles: Optional English SDH and French
The Film - out of
Streets of Fire is a music spectacle; an operatic rock odyssey, told in broad, confident terms by the steady action hand of Walter Hill and is filled with an exhaustingly powerful soundtrack and score from some of the industry’s most interesting artists of the eighties.
Set against a gloomy Rock & Roll backdrop, Streets of Fire is the tale of the Bombers motorcycle gang, led by the ghostly and dangerous Raven Shaddock (Willem Dafoe) that ride into town one night and kidnap the beautiful Ellen Aim (a very young Diane Lane) while she’s performing a charity concert in front of hundreds of screaming fans.
When Tom Cody (Michael Paré) rolls back into town and learns that his old flame from years before is in trouble and that she is now seeing her Manager, Billy Fish (a scrawny looking Rick Moranis) – he begrudgingly signs up to head into the treacherous Bomber territory and rescue her. He is joined on this mission by the whiny Billy Fish and McCoy (Amy Madigan), an ex-soldier with a tomboy look and two hard fists.
This film is about bravado and showdown, gelled together with the pulsating rock/pop fusion that would have been as popular as could be back in 1984. The look of the film is a clear throwback to the street gang machismo of the 40’s and 50’s, replete with classic cars, grimy diners and teens in their ‘Happy Days’-like get ups. But the film is more interesting than simply being set in a ‘bygone’ era; it is infused with 80’s neon accents and outfits (mainly on Ellen Aim and other Stage performers), a clear sign that Walter Hill and team intended to create a decade-defying world in which to set this simple, contained story.
The cast of players are really quite good. Michael Paré has never been so well cast, perhaps because his character, Tom Cody, is more fitting with his method of acting; a sort of dumbed-down Brooklyn-style hero, more apt to limited speech and heroic stances than meatier dialogue and meaningful moments. His rival in the film, Raven, is executed with a little flair and an over-the-top audacity befitting of Defoe’s creepy glare and peculiar look. His pasty white face and coiffed hair in perfect 50’s retrograde style brings the character to life. Diane Lane spends much of the time in ‘damsel-in-distress mode’ as the singer Ellen Aim, fitting of the time that this film echoes, but we all now know that she is capable of so much more. Her stage presence suits the musical numbers she performs (lip-synching) and her more modern 80’s styling create a nice contrast to the men she is involved with in the film. Amy Madigan is perhaps the most curious character in the film, a macho ex-military woman who knows how to knock back the drinks and knock down anyone that fails to show her respect. She pulls of ‘tough-but-venerable’ extremely well. The last of the major characters is that of Billy Fish, manager and safety-net boyfriend of Ellen. His squirrelly, nerdy, complaining character suits Rick Moranis well – variations of which he ended up portraying in films like Ghostbusters and Spaceballs, but never as unlikable as he is here.
Walter Hill, the venerable action director responsible for many 1980’s treasures such as 48 Hours, Red Heat and The Warriors, delivers an unusual action/rock film, filled with plenty of hard-talking, tough-mouthed characters caught up in some trouble and trying to make it through. The amazing settings (both real and studio back-lot) add real personality to the film and help make Streets of Fire a spirited gang tale that would suit the Broadway theater as much as it did the movie theater.
Streets of Fire also has plenty of recognizable faces in the smaller, supporting roles. Bill Paxton plays a familiar character type for him now; a goofy, fast-talking smart-mouth bartender. Robert Townsend plays a singer with the The Sorels and Ed Begley Jr. shows up as a filthy alley dweller in Bomber territory.
Streets of Fire is presented in the original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 in 1080P High Definition and encoded VC-1. The image is a little dark and murky in the scenes that are low-lit or rely on light from onscreen sources. The image is also somewhat overly grainy, beyond the natural, inherent grain one should expect (and welcome). But, all is not lost. There is still clarity to many scenes that we could not have seen with standard DVD. As a catalogue release for a 1984 film, Streets of Fire can look pretty darn good at times.
Universal Studios has given us Streets of Fire with a Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 soundtrack (as well as French 5.1 and Dolby Digital Plus 2.0). This is a delight. The music pounds the speakers and the throaty engines of the classic cars stretch the low-end bass and LFE nicely.
The surrounds are active and deep. Overall, this is a pretty good audio track for this film.
No extras so, “No stars for you!”
Streets of Fire is a lot of fun. The broad, simple characters, one sided as they may be, are still appealing and well defined. Walter Hill’s eye for ‘hard-punch’ action is alive and well, and at times I get the feeling that had it fit the script, he would have loved to send a bad-guy flying through the air from a shotgun blast. The atmosphere of the film is established quickly and maintained evenly through the film, adding a dimension to the story that serves the movie well.
Ry Cooder’s score melds seamlessly with the songs, perhaps because he was intricately involved in many of them. It is a rich score that holds up well.
Streets of Fire is an enjoyable film, that some may say is style over substance. But the style to me is a part of the substance. I am not sure that everyone will be burning up the streets to get to their local store to pick this one up, but those that have a special place in their lives for this film will not be disappointed by revisiting it on HD-DVD.