23 December 2005 | fertilecelluloid
Extraordinary kinetic work
Walter Hill, whose fine directorial achievements include "Hard Times", "The Warriors", "Southern Comfort", "Crossroads", "Johnny Handsome" and "Extreme Prejudice", scored another creative bullseye with this self-proclaimed "rock and roll fable". Though it is simplistic in the extreme, it is an extraordinarily kinetic work with great music, stunning cinematography, cutting edge editing (from Hill regular Freeman Davies) and fantastic production design.
From a purely visual perspective, it was way ahead of its time, and like most things that were ahead of their time, it flopped badly (at the box office). So much of the film is worthy of praise -- the opening credit sequence employs a bravura graphic technique that has been much imitated; the kidnapping of Ellen Aim (Diane Lane) is a stunningly staged sequence, as is Lane's mimed rendition of Jim Steinman's fabulous "Tonight Is What It Means To Be Young". The climactic fight sequence between Michael Pare and Willem Dafoe (in one of his first screen roles) is magical, as are all the film's scenes of physical combat.
Hill makes mean, lean, muscular movies and populates them with both fresh faces and screen vets. Michael Pare, who had a limited career, is just fine as the mythical Tom Cody, the film's reluctant hero (is there any other?). Dafoe shines as Raven Shaddock, the lead of the kidnappers, and the MIA Amy Madigan is just terrific as the tough-talking McCoy, Pare's feisty sidekick.
Andrew Laszlo, who worked with Hill on "Southern Comfort" and even shot Tobe Hooper's "The Funhouse", does a knockout job with the cinematography and, working with ace production designer John Vallone (another Hill reg) creates a magnificent retro universe on the Universal backlot.
Not to be missed!