Crossroads (1986) / Drama-Fantasy
MPAA Rated: R for language and some sexuality
Running Time: 96 min.
Cast: Ralph Macchio, Joe Seneca, Jami Gertz, Joe Morton, Robert Judd, Steve Vai, Dennis Lipscomb, Harry Carey Jr., John Hancock
Director: Walter Hill
Screenplay: John Fusco
Review published February 3, 2005
Crossroads is an underappreciated mid-80s sleeper that has a bit of a cult following, particularly among blues fans. I used to consider it a guilty pleasure, but I've grown to thinking it has aged into a good film over time, even though I'll admit, the story is a bit farfetched and not as realized as it could have been. Watching Macchio (My Cousin Vinny, The Karate Kid) try to stack up with the legends can be a bit silly at times, especially since it is you can occasionally tell that he isn't really playing the guitar, but the guitar coaching and actual performing by Arlen Roth (along with Ry Cooder) works well enough that it looks believable enough for those not looking at his finger movements.
Ralph Macchio plays Eugene Martone, classical guitar student of Juilliard but lover of the blues, and he hopes one day to be one of the finest Bluesmen in the country. His quest for a lost Blues song written by the legendary Robert Johnson leads him to find another legend, Willie Brown (Joe Seneca), aka Blind Dog Fulton. Unfortunately, Willie doesn't want to be found, but eventually gives in to the boy's interest for a chance to escape the convalescent prison he's in and take him on a road trip to deep south Mississippi, where the Blues flourished long ago. It seems that part of Willie's history includes a legend of him signing a pact with the devil for his skill with the blues, and Willie wants to claim his soul back.
Obviously, a film that is centered on blues is going to have some good music, and the soundtrack is definitely one of the movie's biggest assets. Some good classic tunes are in the mix, and actor/singer/songwriter Joe Seneca performs very well singing that old style Blues. Famed metal guitarist, Steve Vai, also makes a notable appearance late in the film in an electrifying duel of flashy guitar work that works as the film's climax brilliantly, although some may scoff that the film loses thematic integrity by introducing metal riffs and classical chords instead of a strict blues showdown.
Director Walter Hill develops the film quite well, and with the possible exception of casting Jami Gertz as a runaway hooker, this is solidly cast, with a terrific performance by Seneca, as well as Joe Morton (Blues Brothers 2000, What Lies Beneath) as the Devil's assistant. If you love blues, or just entertaining films about music in general, Crossroads is one to seek out at your local rental store when the new releases aren't satisfying enough.
©2005 Vince Leo