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  Streetwalkin' She Works Hard For The Money
Year: 1985
Director: Joan Freeman
Stars: Melissa Leo, Dale Midkiff, Leon, Antonio Fargas, Julie Newmar, Randall Batinkoff, Annie Golden, Deborah Offner, Khandi Alexander, Julie Cohen, Gregg German, Kirk Taylor, Jaison Walker, Michael Torres, William Shuman, Jake Reno, Garth Gardner
Genre: Drama, Action, Thriller, TrashBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Teenage Cookie (Melissa Leo) has taken her brother Tim (Randall Balinkoff) and escaped her abusive mother and her boyfriend to go to New York City in the hope of finding some solace. On arrival at the station, she tries one last time to call her mother, but she isn't listening, and Cookie realises tearfully that she and her sibling can never go home again. But as luck would have it, a man approaches her as she sits on the floor pondering her next move, and he offers her somewhere to stay. Unfortunately for her, this man is Duke (Dale Midkiff), and he is a pimp on the lookout for new faces to add to his coterie of prostitutes - before long, Cookie has joined up with them...

Streetwalkin', now there was a title, its apostrophe suggesting a comedy (this was from the nineteen-eighties, after all), or at least a dance movie such as Cannon's Breakin' or the legendary Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo. But this was a drama cum thriller based around the world of The Big Apple's sleaze merchants from one of Cannon's rivals, Roger Corman's Concorde which he had established after his New World moved onto other hands; if anything, this was even cheaper, and soon became synonymous with the type of movie that was more keen to reach the strip club in its plotting than it was to deliver the kind of envelope-pushing Corman had made his name with.

Obviously a lot of what Corman had set his legend with was trash, but he had more strings to his bow than might initially appear, yet Concorde signalled his artistic decline into lowest common denominator diversions, where abundant sex and violence were guaranteed, but big stars and big budgets were not. With this, you could still detect his integrity, for while this was still fairly trashy he had hired a woman to direct, which he would often do to deflect accusations of sexism, and Joan Freeman and her husband/creative partner Robert Alden had done their research into the underbelly of New York and tried to render it as authentically as possible, as far as they could.

This, however, did not stop trash fans from thinking, wait a minute, isn't this suspiciously similar to the earlier thriller Vice Squad, memorable for its Wings Hauser turn as a vicious pimp? Perhaps there were only so many stories you could tell with this background, so after a while they all started to look the same, but no matter how true to life the Aldens tried to craft this tale, it did come across as painfully generic, and its attempts at social relevance faltered when Corman was obviously making stipulations in the production that the movie had to adhere to. Basically, that meant nudity and bloodshed, occasionally in the same scene, hewing it close to its exploitation roots without ever distinguishing it either as a trash classic or searing exposé of the world of prostitution and its accompanying dangers.

However, one thing has distinguished Streetwalkin', entirely unintentionally as nobody involved could have seen into the future, and that was one of the actresses providing the nudity would go on to win an Oscar decades later. She was our lead, Melissa Leo, one of those hard workers who had been in the acting business for some time when she finally was nominated for Frozen River and won for The Fighter, in the Best Supporting category and richly deserved. Nevertheless, despite a higher profile since then, she was not really the kind of performer to prompt legions of fans to check out as much of her filmography as possible, so her feature debut in this remains obscure. She did a creditable job as the teenage runaway (though she was in her mid-twenties when she played her), and there were incidental amusements like Antonio Fargas and Julie Newmar, always good value, but its psycho pimp narrative would always feel second hand, especially now. Music by Matthew Ender and Doug Timm.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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