Streets of Fire, the epitome of 1980s romantic action movies, begins with a crowded nightclub. The beautiful and talented (and here quite youthful) Diane Lane begins singing a rousing song that none other than Meat Loaf would go on to record later on. It is a joyous, energetic introduction, filled with 1950s decor combined with 1980s new wave. You would be forgiven for thinking that you were embarking on a fun film. I honestly did too. However, what I found was that Streets of Fire was one of the most agonizing experiences I’ve ever had with a film.
When someone has been working for almost fifty years in the film industry, we normally label them as brilliant filmmakers, mainly due to their longevity. Walter Hill has been in the movie business for decades, and has made some memorable films. However, delving into his filmography, you’ll see, not many of his films are actually very good. He has done some pretty impressive, iconic films, but on their own, hardly any of his films are really that great. I made the mistake of thinking Streets of Fire would be brilliant simply because Walter Hill was attached to it. Never judge a book by its cover, and never judge a movie by its director.
The main problem with Streets of Fire is that sloppiness is the central theme of the filmmaking process. Just note that for what Hill lacks in directorial abilities, he makes up for in writing skills. After all, he is the man responsible for the Alien series of films, serving as a writer throughout the entire series. Yet, Streets of Fire has a very sloppy, contrived script that is cliched both in story and dialogue. It is a story you’d expect to see on a homemade family movie by a 13-year-old, not by a proper director with a budget and studio.
The acting was absolutely atrocious. There were two good performances – from the always brilliant Willem Dafoe and the underrated Rick Moranis. Sadly, however, they were only relegated to the positions of bad guy and grumpy second banana respectively. Michael Paré gave one of the worst performances in film history – his line delivery was poor, he showed absolutely no emotion or acting abilities and he was just pure wooden acting. Amy Madigan gave an equally bad performance as the tough tomboy McCoy – at this point, the tough female woman that was more ballsy than the male protagonist was not a new thing, but Walter Hill and the rest of the crew treated the role like they were breaking new ground. They were a pair of terrible performances, and the saddest part was that they were the two leads, while great performances by a few others like Dafoe and Moranis were completely subdued and underwhelming.
The worst aspect of this was that neither Madigan nor Paré were such lost causes as actors that Hill couldn’t have just given them some tips on how to come across as believable, and say their lines like they were actually having a coherent conversation and not learned the lines the night before (not that the script itself was anything special). So basically, everything that is wrong with this film can be summarized in the fact that the script was so bad, and the actors made it even worse with their poor acting, and the director couldn’t be bothered to try and improve the acting. It is one big vicious circle of mediocrity.
I can’t think of a single person who would consider this their “type of film” – the action scenes may be impressive on paper, but they are underwhelming, the romance story was absolutely nothing we haven’t seen before, on a much better scale and the nostalgia was so forced and ineffective. Walter Hill really dropped the ball with this one, and Streets of Fire borders on unbearable. However, the few saving graces make it a lot less agonizing, such as the great early performance of Willem Dafoe, the great soundtrack but most of all the fact that this film simply came and went pretty quietly, not making much of an impact. It will be gone and forgotten eventually, because there is absolutely nothing about Streets of Fire that warrants any remembrance.