With all the CP2077 stuff going on, I finally rewatched Mike Pondsmith’s apparent favourite movie, and massive inspiration for the style and mood of CP2020, Streets of Fire.
Last time I saw it, I was a moody teenager, who was high off seeing 1990s ultra-action like HEAT, and a massive Michael Mann film, and to me, it seemed at once juvenile, and “for old people”. I was also bitter because how could this be the inspiration for CP2020, not all the awesome cyberpunk anime and so on?
Re-watching it, I really liked it. It’s a fascinatingly bizarre movie. It open with two assertions:
That it is set in “Another time, Another place”.
That it is a Rock and Roll Fable.
These both seem to be true. The setting is fascinatingly bizarre. It’s mostly sort of '50s-ish, but it’s clearly a massive urban sprawl (they drive for two hours straight at one point, with no traffic, and are still in the middle of the city - indeed it seems like they have hours to go at that point), and there’s random '80s fashion and technology. A fairly decent colour TV is part of a jukebox, playing the music video of the song selected. Yet many of the clothes and weapons and vehicles are from the '40s or before, and there seems to have been some sort of war (just referred to as “the war”) going on for an indefinite period. Perhaps WW2 never ended, never went nuclear, and just ground on. Perhaps it never started and a million smaller wars did. It’s impossible to say.
The cutting and shooting are very aggressive. The speed of the jumpcuts at the starts was so high that it actually startled me, despite being a veteran of the ever-shorter length of shots through the '90s and '00s. There’s a ton of weird scratchy wipes that I don’t know the term for, and really the lighting, colour and so on are pretty much eternally spot-on for what they seem to be going for.
The action looks good for a 1984 movie, and the outfits are just tremendous. My personal favourite being Willem Defoe in latex/rubber overalls (we’d call them dungarees in the UK), and nothing else (well, boots) which is just terrifying.
The plot is quite fun, and actually better put-together than many modern plots. There are arguable plot-holes but the general sense of a fable or story more or less covers that, and there city seems largely anarchic, which cops serving mostly just to keep a light kind of order, and there being no sense of any leadership above them, no mayors or politicians.
There are also all sorts of wonderful random things in it - the dancer on the bar in the “bad” bar is Marine Jahan, who did all the actual dancing in Flash Dance, for example (she’s amazing). The music is great and the movie really loves the music.
The weakest point is probably the acting. Michael Pare has the looks for a male lead, but not the acting chops or charisma. Diane Lane is beautiful but she doesn’t quite seem to “get” the role (very different to later performances). The rest of the cast are better, but apart from Willem Defoe, almost everyone has at least one slightly wooden line.
It’s kind of 7/10 movie, but in the best possible way. Highly watchable and enjoyable, I thought.
It’s also notable because as well as inspiring CP2020, it seems to have been “big in Japan”, and inspired various works - not least Final Fight:
(That the Final Fight-inspired Streets of Rage was called that also seems non-accidental)
And Bubblegum Crisis: https://observationdeck.kinja.com/streets-of-fire-a-totally-awesome-movie-youve-proba-471044477
Which ironically (or not) was another influence on CP2020.
There’s also a good case to be made that it influenced Robocop and other later-'80s movies, primarily in terms of visuals, which it is very strong on.
My favourite review of it: http://1000misspenthours.com/reviews/reviewsn-z/streetsoffire.htm
I note it’s by Walter Hill who gave us another very influential '80s film, which pretty much permanently shaped how gangs were portrayed in non-realist media (and again clearly “big in Japan”): The Warriors.