Welcome to Monsoon-a-day.
Where I watch and review a movie a day.
I decided to mix things up and review two films at a time. I didn’t feel like i had much to say about any of them, so i decided to lump them together.
1. Emperor Of The North
Five Second Elevator Pitch:
“A No. 1, (Lee Marvin) a train hopping hobo battles a sadist train conductor Shack (Ernest Borgnine) on the number 19 train”
There was a time when all you needed to pitch a film was a Badass squaring off with another badass and in 1973, there was no one more badass than Lee Marvin. If you had a time machine and could place Marvin in any era, in any time, he would still always be the most badass person in that timezone. He just oozed awesome. On the flipside, there was probably no better heavy in film in the 60’s than Borgnine. (Bad Day at Black Rock, The Wild Bunch, The Vikings, Etc..) The man was a veritable powerhouse and thankfully Robert Aldrich had the good sense to put these two titans on screen together.
The plot is paper thin- During the great depression, a hobo played by Marvin wants to ride the infamous Train 19 run by Borgnine’s character who’s famous for killing any vagrant that tries to steal a ride. It’s a essentially a cat and mouse game of one-upmanship where the only thing on the line is really the game itself.
A-No. 1 needs to win because he’s a certain folk hero amongst the other “Bo’s” and his victory is literally all they have. Shack needs to win to keep his reputation of being the only train vagabond free. But the why is irrelevant. They would do what they do regardless because that’s who they are. A-No 1 rides trains to feel free and Shack kills hobos because he’s a monster.
The performances are both equally fantastic as is Keith Carradine who plays a younger tramp (I’m really running out of synonyms for bum) who A-No 1 starts to take under his wing. It’s a minor sub plot but he’s good with what he’s given.
Emperor of The North is a terrific 70’s gem that i feel as gotten lost in the shuffle. My Score B+
2. Streets of Fire
Five Second Elevator Pitch:
“A mercenary is hired to rescue his ex-girlfriend who was kidnapped by motorcycle gang lead by Willem Dafoe”
The Tagline is: “A Rock and Roll Fable” and for years i just assumed this film was some sort of action packed musical hybrid that bombed at the box office because it was radically different than anything else around and although there’s definitely music, it is not a musical. In fact, it’s a film with an extremely simple set up.
Ellen Aim (Diane Lane at her most sexy) is a famous singer who gets kidnapped by Raven (Willem Dafoe) leader of a biker gang and her manager/boyfriend Billy Fish (Rick Moranis) hires a wandering mercenary Tom Cody (Michael Paré) to rescue her. But unbeknownst to him, Cody and Aim used to be lovers.
Based on that plot synopsis you can pretty much guess everything that will happen in the film and odds are you would be correct but it’s not about the story. The plot is just window dressing to the main draw, which is the style. There’s no other film that feels like this film. Walter Hill created a hyper stylized world that feels more like a Rockabilly Gotham than any New York ever depicted on screen.
The cast is great and i guarantee you’ll spend the entire time wondering how the fuck Dafoe never played the Joker in his lifetime. He’s fantastic as the villain but unfortunately doesn’t have a lot of screen time.
Rick Moranis’s casting brings to mind Paul Reiser in Aliens. A decision that sounds terrible on paper but somehow works. They’re both really good at playing slimy weasels.
Roger Ebert had the famous quote “It’s not what a movie is about, it’s how it is about it” and Streets of Fire is the antithesis of that sentiment. There’s not much under the hood of this film but it sure does leave an impression. Streets of Fire gets a B+