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Film / Streets of Fire

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Another time, another place.

Everybody's going nowhere slowly
They're only fighting for the chance to be last
There's nothing wrong with going nowhere baby
But we should be going Nowhere Fast

Ellen Aim (Diane Lane), lead singer of the Attackers, is kidnapped by a gang of bikers known as The Bombers. One of the people in the audience, Reva Cody (Deborah Van Valkenburgh), sends a telegram to her brother Tom (Michael Paré), a war veteran - and Ellen's ex-boyfriend - asking him to return to "the Richmond", a district in the city. Tom Cody and the ex-soldier McCoy (Amy Madigan) are hired by Ellen's manager and boyfriend, Billy Fish (Rick Moranis) to rescue Ellen. The three of them search for Ellen, to rescue her from the Bombers, only for Tom to find that he has feelings for Ellen that need to be reconciled.

From Walter Hill, the director of The Warriors and 48 Hrs., Streets of Fire is a 1984 film, described as a "Rock & Roll Fable." Its setting is a kind of Alternate Universe, a mix of an over-the-top 50s and a dystopian near-future as seen from the 80s; a card in the opening title sequence tells us it's set in "another time, another place." The charm of this film lies in its darkly beautiful shots with lots of shadow and smoke and piercing colors, the comic-book style storytelling, and fantastic music. It is especially popular in Japan, despite having no initial success, commercially or critically. Notably, Bubblegum Crisis was influenced by this film — not to mention the Streets of Rage series.


Streets of Fire was intended to be the first in a projected trilogy of action films called "The Adventures of Tom Cody" with Hill tentatively titling the two sequels The Far City and Cody's Return. However, the film's eventual failure at the box office put an end to the project.

The song "Tonight Is What It Means To Be Young," which plays in the ending scene and over the credits (and whose title also appeared as the tagline for the film) was later adapted into "Der Tanz der Vampire" ("The Dance of the Vampires") in the German-language stage musical Tanz Der Vampire. Another song, "I Can Dream About You," became the biggest hit of singer Dan Hartman's career.

An unofficial Fan Sequel was released in 2013 in film festivals and in 2019 on home release, produced by Albert Pyun. Entitled Road To Hell, it has Michael Pare and Deborah Van Valkenburgh reprising their roles from the original film, and is significantly Darker and Edgier.


No relation to the song from the Initial D soundtrack. Or Bruce Springsteen's one, part of Darkness on the Edge of Town - though it was intended as part of the film before the studio admitted they wouldn't get the rights before opening day.

This film provides examples of the following:

  • Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: Ellen's reconciliation with Tom.
  • Action Girl: McCoy. The role was written as male. Amy Madigan just happened to give an awesome audition.
  • Action Prologue: It starts off with Ellen being kidnapped onstage followed by a diner brawl, and the action never stops from there.
  • Androcles' Lion: Billy Fish does end up rewarding the band whose bus they snuck through town on (and go confiscated) by signing them up for lucrative contract.
  • Anti-Hero: Tom Cody has a bad attitude and initially only agrees to rescue the damsel because of the money.
  • Ascended Fangirl: One of Ellen's fans decides to tag along with the group, even giving them crucial information about the police patrols.
  • Author Appeal: Part of the reason this was made was because the director wanted to make a movie with the things he thought were cool while he was growing up: "Custom cars, kissing in the rain, neon, trains in the night, high-speed pursuit, rumbles, rock stars, motorcycles, jokes in tough situations, leather jackets and questions of honor."
  • Badass Biker: Raven and the Bombers, obviously. The Roadmasters think they're this. They're not.
  • Badass Boast: Both sides of the following exchange:
    Raven: "You're real dumb if you think you can pull this off."
    Tom Cody: "I think you're forgetting something. I got the gun."
    Raven: "I can get guns, smart guy, lots of 'em. Now... why don't you tell me your name?"
    Tom Cody: "Tom Cody. Pleased to meet ya."
    Raven: "I'll be comin' for her. I'll be comin' for you too."
    Tom Cody: "Sure you will. And I'll be waitin.'"
  • Badass Longcoat: Tom Cody wears a drab trench coat and Raven is often seen in a black leather duster.
  • Bad-Guy Bar: "Torchie's", an abandoned factory with an upstairs/back rooms apparently for Bad Guys' use.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: McCoy and Ellen aren't hurt at all, while the men get the snot beat out of them.
  • Big Bad: Raven Shaddock.
  • Big Bad Wannabe: The Roadmasters, a gang of wannabe thugs who're dispatched during the opening credits.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Cody pulls himself together and saves the city, but leaves Ellen, feeling the best thing to do for her is to let her go.
  • Blade Lock: In the fight scene at the end, Cody and Raven do this with sledgehammers.
  • Butterfly Knife: One of the gang members in the Diner Brawl whips one of these out. Tom smacks it out of his hand, then hands it back to the gang member with the challenge, "Try that again." The gang member does, with the same result, about eight times. Tom eventually keeps the knife and tosses the gang out of the diner.
  • The Cameo: Ed Begley Jr as Billy Gunn.
  • Casual Danger Dialog: Tons of it.
  • The Cavalry: At the end the citizens of The Richmond see off the Bombers after Cody defeats Raven.
  • The Chanteuse: Ellen Aim, who's played by Diane Lane.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The Butterfly Knife that Tom takes from the gang leader during the Diner Brawl gets put to good use later in the movie.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Clyde, who initially just seems to be someone for the Bombers to slap aside during the kidnapping, also facilitates (albeit unintentionally) the meeting between Cody and McCoy, and later goes to get The Cavalry for the climax.
  • Cherry Tapping: After beating each other up with sledgehammers and fists, Cody finishes Raven by pushing him over. It's a bit of an act of mercy, since Raven was basically out on his feet.
  • City of Adventure: The city is filled with bad-guy bars, greasy spoons and rock clubs filled with oddball and dangerous characters.
  • City with No Name: Although "the Richmond" and other districts were named, the overall city was simply "another time, another place."
  • The Coats Are Off: Cody does this in the opening Diner Brawl, revealing a sleeveless shirt beneath that duster. Both he and Raven do this before the sledgehammer street fight as well.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Both Tom and Raven. Officer Price also tries this by telling Raven to show up for a showdown with Cody but instead asking Cody to stay away and having armed men waiting to arrest Raven while he was outnumbered. Unfortunately, he did have plenty of goons waiting around the corner.
  • Complaining About Rescues They Don't Like: Ellen is furious that Tom went to save her for money.
  • Cool Big Sis: Reva Cody.
  • Cool Car: "I just picked it up today."
  • Crazy Jealous Guy: Billy Fish is pretty jealous of Cody's relationship with Ellen, but he gets over it.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Cody and the Roadmasters
  • Damsel in Distress: Ellen Aim.
  • The Dandy: Billy Fish wears a tweedy suit and bow-tie during the rescue operation, which completely contrasts with what everyone else is wearing.
  • Deconstructed Trope: The Damsel in Distress plot. Cody's doing it for money, and Ellen is rescued about halfway through, the problem then becomes keeping her safe. It also touches on this when Ellen talks with the fangirl, admitting that she doesn't write her songs.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: Tom and Ellen still have feelings for one another, but they both realize that they still don't work as a couple and depart on good terms.
  • Diner Brawl: We're introduced to Cody through one of these, where he defends his sister from some rowdy diner patrons.
  • Do Wrong, Right: The police chief gives Cody permission to fight Raven after his plan to resolve it peacefully fails.
  • The Dragon: Greer, Raven's second-in-command. The one who punches out Billy Fish. Played by Lee Ving, the former lead singer of the punk band Fear.
  • Dramatic Gun Cock: The townspeople with several hundred guns after the end of the sledgehammer duel.
  • Drop the Hammer: The sledgehammer duel between Tom Cody and Raven.
  • Dystopia: The atmosphere is there, but outside of the implications of a war, little is know about the place.
  • The '80s: But most of the film takes on a The '50s aesthetic.
  • Excuse Plot: A rare non-videogame example. Why does Raven kidnap Ellen? Eh, she's hot and he wants her. There's no subplot, no real motivation except he's The Villain.
  • Fake Band: Ellen Aim and the Attackers, and the Sorels. The band playing at Torchy's? Those were the Blasters, a real badass rockabilly group.
  • Fan Sequel: As mentioned above, Road To Hell was produced 28 years after this movie..
  • Fire-Forged Friends: At the end, Tom Cody and Billy Fish, who spent most of the movie being antagonistic toward each other, have come to an accord and respect each other to the point that they are no longer constantly sniping at each other.
  • Foreshadowing: "I Can Dream About You" foreshadows that Tom won't go with Ellen.
  • Gender Flip: The original screenplay imagined McCoy as a male; Amy Madigan convinced them to have the character be female without rewriting the part.
  • Genre-Busting: Hill likes to say that all his movies could be considered Westerns, and it shows; the rough and roguish gunslinger with complicated ethics, the damsel in distress, the showdown with the head bandit. But there's also 50's greaser punks and car chases, 80's-style crime drama and music, and a post-apocalyptic/cyberpunk vibe in that the authorities are only present to show how useless they are. And somehow, it all just works.
  • Genre Savvy: A pair of Dirty Cop's at a checkpoint Billy tries to bribe their way past take his money, but then note that for how much he's willing to pay, there's clearly something or someone big and important in there and try to arrest them.
  • Hell-Bent for Leather: Raven and the Bombers are covered in black leather. In the climax, Raven stripes down to some very fetishy leather overalls.
  • Hollywood Night: Some of the film was shot on the backlot of Universal Studios in California on two large, elaborate sets covered in a tarp 1,240 feet long by 220 feet wide so that night scenes could be filmed during the day.
  • Honor Before Reason: Officer Price tries his best to uphold the law by the book, which means he can't go after Ellen as it's outside his jurisdiction.
  • Hypercompetent Sidekick: McCoy has shades of this, though it could stem from the villains being unwilling to hit a girl.
  • I Have You Now, My Pretty: Raven tries to put the moves on Ellen, and this is essentially why he kidnapped her in the first place.
  • I Lied: Raven lies to the police about bringing only two guys to the showdown.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Billy Fish is Ellen Aim's boyfriend as well as her manager, but he recognizes that Tom is Ellen's True Love and offers to stand aside. For his part, Tom realizes the in the long run, Billy is better for Ellen's career and her happiness. He also doesn't want to take Ellen's music away from her (his original complaint was that he didn't like "coming in second to her music" Each says Ellen would be better off with the other guy, leading to this exchange:
    Billy Fish: "Listen, Tom... I won't stand in your way with Ellen. I know how things are between you two."
    Tom Cody: (after a beat) "I'd only slow her down. Besides, she needs you more than she needs me."
    Billy Fish: "Sure, she needs me... but she loves you!"
    Tom Cody: "She'll get over it. Besides, she's used to me being unreliable and disappearing on her."
    Billy Fish: "Is that what I'm supposed to tell her?"
    Tom Cody: (shrugs) "You're better with words than I am."
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold:
    • Tom Cody. Saves his ex for money, kicks out her fangirl, and generally makes everyone dislike him...and then he lets Fish keep the money, reconciles with Ellen, and saves the town from the bikers. And is implied that he kicked the girl out to keep her safe.
    • Billy Fish. For all his whining and complaining, for all his constantly insulting and condescending to everyone he meets except Ellen, he rides right into Hell for Ellen along with everyone else, not to mention charging out into the fight onstage in the opening scene and trying to face down Raven just before the sledgehammer fight (he's pathetically ineffective both times, but still. Whatever else you can call him, he's no Dirty Coward). Furthermore, he quickly comes to the defense of the new band, showing he is definitely no racist either. Also, despite his petty greed, he agrees to not one, but two benefits in Ellen's old neighborhood (with notably less complaining the second time). See also: I Want My Beloved to Be Happy.
  • Jim Steinman: Wrote the music for Ellen Aim and the Attackers. As if you couldn't tell.
  • Keep the Reward: Cody takes the 10 percent that he promised McCoy and lets Billy Fish keep the rest.
  • Kick Them While They Are Down: Raven does this to Cody during their fight. Cody also kicks back.
  • Knight in Sour Armor: Cody. A former soldier who has been disappointed by life, but he still knows right from wrong.
  • Know When to Fold 'Em: Your leader is beaten and unconscious, about a hundred people whose neighborhood you raided and wrecked earlier are pointing guns at you and just gave you a Dramatic Gun Cock...yeah, "Let's get outta here" is a good idea.
  • Kubrick Stare: When Raven calls in his reinforcements in the finale, his smug smile fades into a menacing Kubrick stare.
  • The Lad-ette: McCoy was written as a man, but eventually cast with a female actor, turning her into one of these. Very little of her lines were changed.
  • Living Prop: Ellen's other bandmates (presumably "The Attackers"), only one of whom tries to save her from the bikers. None of them join in the rescue mission and they barely interact with anyone.
    • All of the cops besides Price, Cooley and the two at the checkpoint.
  • Made of Explodium: Cody dispatches Raven's gang's motorcycles with a single shot each. Whoomph-flash-boom.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • The biker bar Torchie's. Everything around the place blows up real good.
    • Ellen Aim: "The things they say and the things they do / Nothing's gonna stop us if our aim is true".
    • Raven's name is an apparent reference to his greased hair, which forms a black beak over his forehead.
  • Mood Whiplash: After scenes of typical action movie fare with Bloodless Carnage comes the raw, brutal sledgehammer fight, with blood.
  • Motor Mouth:
    • Billy Fish, especially when agitated.
    • Also Baby Doll, Ellen's fangirl.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Tom seems to have this realization after everyone is alienated from him, and soon starts to set things right.
  • Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: It's a Musical/Action/Comic Book movie.
  • No Name Given: Ellen's fan, who's called "Baby Doll" in the script.
  • No One Gets Left Behind: Surprisingly, a villainous version. Once Raven is defeated, the Bombers pick him up and carry him away, not leaving him to be cleaned up by the police.
  • Non-Action Guy: Billy Fish, who nevertheless has balls made of pure brass and who doesn't let something like the knowledge he's about to get his ass kicked stop him.
    • Also, Clyde. He's the only audience member who attempts to stop the kidnapping and gets stomped. He comes off as a blowhard and appears to run away in fear prior to the sledgehammer fight. He's actually assembling The Cavalry.
  • Not So Stoic: The one time Cody really panics is when the Sorels' bus catches on fire and they can't cool it off.
  • One-Liner: Much of the dialogue is this.
  • Only in It for the Money: Cody states that he's only saving Ellen for money, not love, but reveals his true feelings later.
  • Only Sane Man: Despite usually being Ax-Crazy, Greer seems to be the only one who realizes just how badly the fight is going for Raven, and is the one to realize you have to Know When to Fold 'Em.
  • Out-Gambitted: The police chief tries to get Cody and Ellen out of town while he arrests Raven. He didn't expect Raven to have an army of bikers at the ready. Good thing Cody returned when he did.
  • Percussive Prevention: Tom punches Ellen across the face to knock her out so she would stop fussing and he could focus on saving them.
  • Pet the Dog: Billy and Cody finally exchange friendly words at the film's end, finally making amends.
  • Playing Hard to Get: When Reva notes how McCoy spent the night on the couch instead of in Cody's bed, McCoy says. "Sometimes it helps a guy out if you don't make it so easy."
  • Police Are Useless: Well it is Gangster Land, after all. There are only two main cops that we see, and one of them is the Chief of Police. Two other patrolmen are bought off.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: Cody, McCoy, and Billy fit this trope well enough, but it really heads into this territory when they pick up Baby Doll, a fan of Ellen's, and the Sorels, a band, on the way back from the Battery.
  • Reality Ensues:
    • A small, humorous moment: during the chaos of Ellen's rescue, Tom smacks one of the Bombers in the face with a rifle butt and sends him tumbling down a staircase into a crowd of more Bombers. One of them shouts "Who is that guy?" The villains' lives don't revolve around the hero or even their boss's latest caper. As far as they're concerned, Tom is just some guy who's busting up their party for no reason that they can determine.
    • When the police are asked to set up a One-on-one fight between Tom and Raven, instead they simply try to trap Raven and arrest him when he's off-guard , something Raven had apparently anticipated.
  • Recycled Soundtrack: The "Godspeed!" section of Nowhere Fast was lifted from the title track of Jim Steinman's solo album, Bad For Good, and the opening piano riff was recycled for the Meat Loaf song Everything Louder Than Everything Else. And as mentioned above, Tonight Is What It Means To Be Young was re-arranged to become the title track of Tanz Der Vampire.
  • Retro Universe: The setting is best described as being in Rock n' Roll land with minimal racial tensions, '50s-ish fashion sense, and '80s-ish urban decay. The intro card simply reads, "Another Time, Another Place."
  • Romantic Rain: After Tom Cody tells off Ellen, she chases him back outside in the pouring rain, and a few moments later kissing ensues.
  • Rule of Cool: Did we mention the duel between Tom Cody and Raven? With sledgehammers!
  • Running Gag: Cody and company repeatedly ditching and procuring the same car.
  • Same Content, Different Rating: Some DVDs of the film rate it PG while others rate it R.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: The police chief tries to get Cody and Ellen to leave the city to avert a final showdown. Cody—though unwillingly—gets Ellen away, but heads back to take care of the Bombers.
  • Shout-Out: The film has been referenced in other works.
  • The Smurfette Principle: Ellen Aim and the Attackers.
  • Spiritual Successor: To director Hill's own film The Warriors, another film taking place in a gritty but stylized alternate reality overrun by gangs.
  • Spontaneous Crowd Formation: Raven summons about 200 bikers out of nowhere to face down the police. A bit later, a bunch of citizens with guns show up to stare them down. They then proceed to do nothing until Tom beats Raven in a street fight, at which point the guys with guns chase off the bikers.
  • The Squadette: McCoy, who else.
  • Starter Villain: The Roadmasters.
  • Stealth Parody: Though advertised as a dark, edgy atmospheric action thriller the film is very tongue in cheek with a lot of bad dialogue delivered badly on purpose.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Cody, McCoy, and Billy spend as much time arguing as they do rescuing Ellen.
  • Titled After the Song: The film was named after Bruce Springsteen's song "Streets of Fire." Ellen was supposed to sing it at the end of the film, but the filmmakers couldn't get the rights to it in time, so she sings an original song that doesn't reference the title at all.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Price is initially hostile towards Tom, but compliments him on the rescue, and tells him to go fight Raven after seeing that his own gambit didn't work.
  • Trapped Behind Enemy Lines
  • Victory by Endurance: Tom actually takes more hits than Raven in the final fight. He wins because he can take more hits than Raven. Also, Raven is visibly exhausted by the end of the fight, while Tom still has some gas left in the tank.
  • Villainous Breakdown: As the street fight turns against Raven, he loses his cool in a big way, going from trembling on the edge of tears to berserk rage to out on his feet.
  • Villainous Friendship: See No One Gets Left Behind. Greer (Lee Ving's character) in particular seems genuinely loyal to his boss.
    • For his part, Raven at least cares enough to hold back Greer from doing anything foolish when McCoy has them at gunpoint.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Reva gives one to Tom for his habit of alienating anyone who might care about him with his attitude. It works and he turns down his share of the reward, apologized to McCoy, and makes up with Ellen.
  • World of Badass: Soldiers, greasers, rockabilly bars, biker gangs, cops, vigilantes, even the Non-Action Guys... everything is badass except the Roadmasters.
  • Wrench Wench: McCoy
  • Wretched Hive: The unnamed city is overrun with biker gangs, to the point that they can commit brazen kidnappings of celebrities and the cops are powerless to stop it.
  • The X of Y: Streets of Fire.
  • Zeerust: The film takes place in modern day (The '80s), but the entire aesthetic is of The '50s.


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