Here’s something I’m pretty sure no one has said before: this movie is so fucking bad I can’t believe it was made by Concorde. “Streets” is an obvious late wave imitator of Robert Vincent O’Neill’s “Vice Squad” and “Angel,” only with all the elements that made those films so fantastic completely MISSING! The mean streak has been muted. There is no imaginative approach to depravity. The sense of humor is nowhere to be found. And perhaps most importantly, the odd heart which really drives so many of O’Neill’s plots and gives them urgency is not here.
One quickly gathers a sense that writer/director Katt Shea perhaps ambitions of expanding what was intended to be a simple exploitation piece into something that had a real soul and played on social conscience. Unfortunately, just because your film stars human beings doesn’t make it human, and the end result feels like some nagging LifeTime movie. I understand and admire what she was trying to accomplish, but this thing just fails on so many levels. It’s sort of a betrayal of what one might expect from Concorde at this point, because it tries to be ABOVE the sort of film that it’s intended to be. There are moments of frank dialog which are intended to be shocking, especially because they are uttered by the characters in a casual fashion. This might alarm a Mormon house wife, who will sit back and aghast and wonder, “My god, how can she the word ‘handjob’ as if it were a garden variety flower.” To the connoisseurs of 42 street schlock, this is yawn-inducing stuff. Situations intended to be dire or dark just feel too tame in contrast to what its predecessors delivered so many years before.
The other sad component of this dull equation is that you just don’t give a shit about the characters in these situations. They just weren’t developed into people with real stories, and they lack an element that is intrinsic to surviving the worst situations: humor. Sure, these wayward adolescents are shooting drugs and turning tricks, but at some point they chose this lifestyle, more than likely because their home environment was far worse what they’re now facing. None of the characters have a background story, and between them there aren’t any moments of tenderness or happiness. In Penelope Spheeris’ “Suburbia,” the protagonists engage in activity that could be construed as villainous from an outsider’s point of view. In fact, Spheeris could have made a “Suburbia 2” from the perspective of the neighborhood council, and the T.R. characters could have easily been the antagonists. In “Suburbia,” Spheeris provides us with insights into their terrible home lives which makes their assholeishness excusable if not endearing. While the T.R. kids are essentially homeless and plagued by drugs and violence, most of the scenes that depict them functioning as a family are incredibly warm and funny. The characters in “Streets” are written as quirky in attempt to make them seem fun, but it just doesn’t work. The movie radiates a weirdness that makes it compelling, but unfortunately it’s not enough to validate it as a whole.
The movie gets off on the wrong foot by starting with a splat! Teenage prostitute Dawn, played by Christina Applegate, picks up a john, and her life is immediately on the line when the guy tries to kill her. Starting things with a bang is one thing, but this is out of nowhere. Dawn manages to escape with the aid of Sy, a douchebag rich kid (played by David Mendenhall, the pussy kid from “Over The Top”) with a keyboard who happens to be slumming it for the weekend. After a totally bullshit narrow escape, Dawn introduces Sy to the streets and her cast of loser friends. Meanwhile, the john that tried to kill her turns out to be a cop, and he’s hell-bent on revenge. One of the most frustrating things about this film is that they never really establish whether or not this guy is a serial killer, and the only faint hint of motivation for his deeds is a potential impotence problem. Generally, if there’s a killer on the loose, we’re treated to a few news reports, some news clippings, or just something that establishes that a serial killer is contributing to a climate of fear within the community. We get bupkiss here. Still, as unbelievable as this part of the story gets, it’s about the only thing “Streets” has going for it. Never mind the baffling reviews from people who say that this was a well-made, poignant film about the lives of street kids otherwise marred by the shoe horning of a b-movie killer. First off, the acting is hokey as fuck. The characters are poorly developed and their relationships are forced. The writing itself is bland. The score sounds like some Lilith Fair bullshit. The photography and coloring are a poor substitute for true atmosphere. And while the topics are real they are not presented in a realistic fashion. Seriously, it's not good on any level.
After shrugging through the majority of the film, it was the film’s final moments that had me shaking my fist and screaming at the screen. Having thwarted the murderous cop, Dawn and Sy wind up at a bus station, where Sy’s parents wire him bus tickets. Noble Sy wants to rescue his newfound illiterate prostitute junkie girlfriend and give her a new life. However, in much the same fashion that Tarzan shuns society and returns to the jungles to be with the apes at the conclusion of "Greystoke", Dawn decides that the streets are her home and she prefers the comfort of blowing strange dudes for heroin money. What a fucking retard. Anyway, the star crossed lovers say their tearful goodbye and part ways to end the film. But much like Rick and Ilsa have Paris, Sy and Dawn will always have AIDS.
Now, I’m not gonna lie. The only reason I sat through this was because I wanted to see Kelly Bundy’s tits, and it so wasn’t worth the trip. Basically all you get is side boob, and what little you DO get is marred by bad lighting and some romantic piano bullshit. I’d rather that there be no nudity than half-assed nudity. Seriously, this is one of the worst movies about teenage prostitution ever. Skip it.