The VHS era is long gone but there are so many of us who are still trying to hold on to those memories of discovery, the memories that have shaped our lives. The 80’s gave birth to the mom and pop video store domination and the titles you could find lining the shelves were priceless. The spirit of the time period is still very much alive and a whole new breed of filmmaker is on the rise, paying homage to the time period in different ways with their films. Two such filmmakers are Paul Ragsdale and Angelica De Alba whose indie feature STREETS OF VENGENEANCE delivers the retro goodness while still tackling modern issues.
Mila (Delawna McKinney) is an adult film star who has come to a point in her career where she feels it’s time to move on. After a bizarre encounter and a string of murders making her uneasy, it’s never been more evident the time for her to leave is now. Her contract with Ivan Dark (Bryan Hurd) is up and she tells him the news. When the final shoot is over, he throws Mila a retirement party. Everyone is having a great time until Mila finds herself being abducted by a man with a vendetta against women. She barely escapes with her life but learns there’s a whole secret society of men out there known as “The Sword” who have sworn to rid the streets of women “like her” who taunt and tease men with their sexuality. Mila, with the help of some friends, band together to stop the hideous murders happening all over San Francisco, and bring down the society before any more women lose their lives.
STREETS OF VENGEANCE is an exploitation film with a message. It delivers on all the tropes of what one would expect from a film like this while always making sure to reinforce just how strong and powerful women are. It’s a very fine line but Paul and Angelica are able to keep it balanced. One reason for their success is lead actress Delawna McKinney. She breathes life into the character of Mila like no one else could. She’s tough, sexy, and sympathetic, a badass who may go to extremes for justice but is still very much a woman. Not every man in the film is scum. The kind-hearted Brian is played by Anthony Iava To’omata and this guy is brilliant. His character is sort of like a puppy dog who follows Mila everywhere, but he’s also like her voice of reason and has a heart of gold. I’m not trying to take anything away from any of the other performers, the cast is great, but these two are real standouts. Adult film stars Sophie Dee, Alexis Amore, Joanna Angel, and the legendary Ginger Lynn Allen also make appearances. I’d be a fool not to mention the fantastic soundtrack by Vestron Vulture. It’s a full synth score and each cue hits the mark without missing a beat. The story is familiar but the execution is near perfect. If I had to criticize anything about the film, it could use a couple of trims, making it a bit tighter. The final scene of the film is gorgeous and caps off the experience perfectly. It is an experience, it’s more than just a movie, it takes you back to the violent gang/revenge films we grew up on, giving it a modern voice, and a heroine we can root for.