Crossroads (1986) – Review

2 1/2 Stars

Walter Hill’s affection for blues music is evident in this supernatural road movie about a duo of blues travelers. The esteemed director has employed musician Ry Cooder to compose the score to nearly all of his films. Cooder, an accomplished bluesmen, has contributed a wealth of music to Crossroads, which is the film’s strongest point. The story wobbles as Ralph Macchio and Joe Seneca wander through the countryside looking for the devil. You have to give Crossroads points for combining elements of The Karate Kid, Honkytonk Man, and pop culture myth into an oddity that is always interesting, but not much worth all the fuss.

Eugene Martone is obsessed with unlocking the mystery of blues’ legend Robert Johnson’s missing song. The talent youngster finds a curmudgeonly old man, Willie Brown, a master of the harmonica. The elder has lost his fame and fortune, and now spends his days at a rest-home. Eugene convinces Willie to mentor him, but first he must spring Willie from the community.

The odd pair hoboes from New York to Mississippi as Eugene searches for respect, and Willie attempts to break a contract he signed as a youngster with the devil. On the road, Eugene falls for a sexy runaway Frances (Jami Gertz), and earns the name ‘lightening boy’.

The dramatic climax features Eugene facing off with the devil in an electric guitar battle. It’s a scene that could easily have fallen into self parody. Instead, it’s the best sequence in the entire film. Macchio is good once again displaying a focused intensity, and Seneca is perfectly cast as his idol, but the Gertz character is wasted, and not necessary to the story. Crossroads is a film that means well, but is not executed well.

Director: Walter Hill
Stars: Ralph Macchio, Joe Seneca, Jami Gertz

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