Road to Hell (2008)
Reviewed by Debi Moore
Starring Michael Paré, Clare Kramer, Courtney Peldon, Deborah Van Valkenburgh, Anita Leeman
Directed by Albert Pyun
Visit the film's official site
For whatever reason I seem to be the "designated driver" when it comes to checking out the more experimental flicks that cross our path here at Dread Central. Not that I'm complaining because I totally appreciate that form of cinematic art, but it can be difficult to come up with a rating for films like these. Case in point: Albert Pyun's unofficial sequel to the 1984 rock & roll fable Streets of Fire called Road to Hell.
It's an ambitious project that hits more often than it misses even as it suffers from some technical issues. It was shot entirely on green screen, and Pyun has told us that he might have to scrap several of the composited effects and go with more of a Sin City-esque black & white approach. Considering that various scenes don't quite work as Pyun no doubt intended, it's not a bad idea. But since I have yet to see the "final" final version, let's leave the tech stuff aside for now and focus on the storyline.
Reprising their roles from the original SoF (it helps if you've seen it already) are Michael Paré as Cody and Deborah Van Valkenburgh as his sister, who provides the link between the two films as Road to Hell opens with her giving a brief recap of the events that have brought her mercenary brother to the point of madness at which we find him. He has a single mission … find Ellen … in the hopes that she will be his salvation.
But Cody's not alone on his quest for redemption in Edge City, the place where people who have crossed the line of darkness go to have their souls reborn. He's about to meet up with Caitlin (Kramer) and Ashley (Peldon), a pair of slutty and murderous vixens out to raise some hell of their own; and if he thought he'd encountered demons before, well, he ain't seen nothing yet! Caitlin pulls the fucking strings in her fucking relationship with fucking Ash, and she's about to fucking show fucking Cody who's fucking boss as well! Yes, Caitlin really talks that way to prove what a tough chick she is, and while it's rather annoyingly obvious, luckily screenwriter Cynthia Curnan tones it down as the film progresses, resulting in Kramer being the best thing to be found here. I was already a fan from her "Glory" days on "Buffy," but she truly shines in Road to Hell, particularly in the second half when Pyun ramps up the sex and violence.
Paré is Paré -- what more can you say? The guy has made a career out of playing anti-heroes in any number of classics (cult and otherwise), and he doesn't disappoint in this revisiting of the Tom Cody character. Anita Leeman does a serviceable job standing in for Diane Lane as Ellen given her brief screen time, but Peldon seems somewhat out of her element. She gets better as she goes along but is definitely overshadowed by Kramer's magnetism and superior acting chops.
The screener I saw didn't have the completed soundtrack, but what was there perfectly captured the retro vibe of Streets of Fire and included a couple of surprises as well. I look forward to hearing the finished product. The editing is a bit rough in places, but again, allowances have been made in my rating in light of the fact that tweaking will surely be done here and there to smooth things out, which will hopefully include cutting down the number of times one of Paré's close-ups is recycled as it makes a few too many recurring appearances.
So where does all this leave us? While it's certainly not going to appeal to everyone, the highest compliment I can pay Road to Hell is that it carries on its predecessor's highly stylized tradition with vivid surrealism and a healthy dose of over-the-top carnage thrown into the mix. And who knows? Maybe it'll reawaken enough interest in Streets of Fire that the trilogy its creators had in mind back in the 80's will finally come to fruition after all!
2 out of 5
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