Classic Movies: Crossroads (1986)
Updated: Nov 21
Movie Name: Crossroads
Director: Walter Hill
Producer: Mark Carliner
Actors: Ralph Macchio, Joe Seneca and Jami Gertz
Release Date: March 14, 1986
Box Office: $5,839,000 (USD) ($13,643,441.50 USD in 2019)
I had seen a video circulating around with the famous guitar duel scene between Steve Vai (Butler) and Ralph Macchio (Eugene). However, I had never really seen the film. I always wondered if this movie was just a one scene movie or if there was more to it.
I saw that it was available on Netflix, so, I decided to watch it. I feel many people do not remember this film. If they do, it is that one scene. Let us see how iit fares after almost 33 years.
You are introduced to Eugene "Lightening" Mortone. He is played by Ralph Macchio (known for The Karate Kid). He is a young kid who is mastering the art of music at Juillard School for the Arts. He also has this deep passion for blues music.
Eugene is looking for a certain Willie Brown (played by Joe Seneca). Willie could answer the questions about a lost song that Robert Johnson wrote. The idea being if he can re-record that song, that would be Eugene's ticket to fame and fortune.
Eugene finds Willie Brown in a Minimum Security hospital, incarcerated for a murder that he had committed years prior. When Eugene finds Willie, Willie is reluctant and dismisses Eugene and claims that he is not the person that he is searching for. Convinced that it is who he think he is, Eugene plays his guitar for Willie. Willie eventually comes around and advises that he is indeed the one and only Willie Brown. Eugene then breaks Willie out of the hospital and their journey starts to to find the lost song.
Along the way they meet a runaway named Frances (played by Jami Gertz). She ends up tagging along and becomes the love interest of Eugene. The three continue to embark on the journey to find the lost song.
Soon before they reach the "Crossroad" in the middle of Mississippi, Eugene learns that there is no lost song. The journey is really just to meet the devil and try to break the contract.
When they reach the crossroad, this is where they meet the devil and Willie pleads to the devil to give him back his freedom from the contract that binds them. Thinking this is a joke Eugene intervene's and advises that he would play so that Willie's soul can be freed. Laughing this away as if this cannot be true.
In the end, Eugene plays a duel with the devil's protege Butler (Steve Vai). The two play to the end until Eugene finally beats him with music from his classical training. Once that it is known that Eugene has won the duel, the devil tears up the Willie contract and his soul is now free.
The movie ends with Eugene and Willie, walking down the road talking about going to Chicago.
This movie was far from a success in terms of money. It only brought in about $5.9 million (1986 USD currency). That was enough for the 101 most popular movie that year.
Until this movie point, Ralph Macchio was really only known for The Karate Kid. In addition, in June of 1986, The Karate Kid 2 was released. I am not sure that he got as much publicity for Crossroads as one would have hoped.
The movie itself has themes similar to The Karate Kid. Yes, Crossroads is light years away from martial arts and karate chops. However, there are some parallel's that can be made. An older man or mentor, teaches a young prospect about the craft that he is trying to learn. Remove the karate chops and add music and you have Crossroads.
As a music fan, the soundtrack is hit and miss. If you are a fan of blues and music from the south of the US, there are some tracks that could be of interest.
2."Down in Mississippi"J
3."Cotton Needs Pickin'"
4."Viola Lee Blues"
5."See You in Hell, Blind Boy"
6."Nitty Gritty Mississippi"
7."He Made a Woman Out of Me"
8."Feelin' Bad Blues"
9."Somebody's Callin' My Name"
10."Willie Brown Blues"
11."Walkin' Away Blues"
My personal favourite on the album is Willie Brown Blues, which is played in the bar scene. I also really liked Viola Lee Blues.
Here are songs on the album that try too hard to bring the blues to a modern sound. An example of that is He Made a Woman Out of Me.
The casting for Willie Brown was awesome. Joe Seneca who was a musician himself for the The Three Riffs was great in this movie. He also had great chemistry with Ralph Macchio. It really felt like he was a father figure and it worked out really well.
Ralph Macchio beings his usual charm to Eugene. Although we all know that he did not really play guitar, he still was able to make it believable. Another reason that I think that Macchio worked for this role, is because of its similarity to The Karate Kid. He essentially plays a similar character. A younger man that thinks he knows what he wants but learns that he has a lot of things to learn before he can reach his goal.
The theme of adversity is also very prominent. They do deal with the topic of racism in Mississippi. I also like the tough love that Willie gives Eugene. Although, Willie feels that Eugene does not know what "suffering" is, Eugene has his demons as well and he does tell Willie these aspects little by little. Eugene has the thought that you need to really suffer to play the blues. Once Frances leaves, Eugene suffers heartbreak. It seems that, at this point, he has earned his blues stripes.
Speaking of Frances, I think that she is one of the weaker aspects of the movie. She appears in the movie, does her thing and then leaves. Although she is featured on some posters, it feels like she is in it for a second. I think they could have kept her until the end. It feels like they added a female to the cast, just to add a love interest to the cast. This for me fell flat. Yes, she teaches Eugene about heartbreak and I see what they were trying to do, but I just think they could have used her a lot better..
In the end, I think this is a guilty pleasure. If it is for the guitar duel at the end or the random blues music throughout the film, it is a nice 90 minute movie. It is free on Netflix so what is the danger in trying it out? I bet you, by the time you finish watching the film, you will want to pick up a guitar and start playing. I found it entertaining and I think that for music fans out there it could be interesting.
Famous Duel Scene
What do you think? Have you watched the movie? Let us know your thoughts.