Hearts of Fire (1987) Richard Marquand

Production Budget: $17 million

Gross: unknown


Yeah, I know I don’t have numbers but it did bomb. The film only had a two week release in the UK and didn’t even see theaters in the US (was shipped direct to video). And yes, I had to seek this one out and pay for it with my own dime. This is a true unknown. When there are only 16 reviews of this movie on IMDb, then you know the producers were more ashamed of this movie and buried it in a darker place than all those ET Atari cartridges.


The movie was originally a vehicle for Dylan. The movie is about young Molly (played by a woman only billed as Fiona) who hopes one day to be a big rock star. She is mentored by reclusive rocker Billy (Bob Dylan). During the tour she meets a young pop star named Colt (Rupert Everett) and they hit it off. Billy thinks Colt is just using her and Molly is unsure who to be loyal to.


Now a lot of people want to throw Dylan under the bus and blame him for the failure of this movie. Heck, even Dylan admits he just did it for the money. But honestly, Dylan is the only thing that was enjoyable at all in this film. Musicians turned actors can be a mixed bag. Sometimes you get people that can do well like Eminem in 8 Mile and sometimes you get people with negative personality like 50 Cent in Get Rich or Die Tryin’. I am by no means saying that Dylan is a great actor, but he is a hell of a personality. When he was on screen, this movie was hilarious. Just picture this serious movie about a person getting their big break, and every 10 minutes a space alien comes in, hovers around, then wanders out of the frame. It’s like if Capt. Jack Sparrow wasn’t modeled after Keith Richards, it probably would have been based on this performance. Every scene he’s in he is just stumbling around, looking so puzzled, and throwing out some truly nonsensical lines (which is so true to his character that I say he’s not acting at all) which make you laugh. Really, his scenes are the one redeeming part of an otherwise sh*tty movie.


The rest of the movie is terrible. The best way to describe it is utterly predictable and boring. What’s odd is that even though this is supposed to by a Dylan vehicle, this is more a Fiona vehicle. Dylan has very limited screen time and only two songs (including a duet with Fiona which was so inharmonious it made my ears bleed). Fiona is the main character and she has the majority of the songs. Fiona is just not up to the task of carrying a movie. I can’t say she does a bad job, but she isn’t compelling either. I don’t care about her character and I don’t care for this paper thin plot to move it along. And I am being generous in describing this plot as paper thin. The majority of the running time is padded out with endless numbers from Fiona. And I know this is a musical movie, but when you have like 12 musical numbers it gets to be a bit much.


It also feels like some pages were torn out of the script because the end doesn’t really make any sense. Okay, so in the end you would expect to see Colt revealed as the scummy record producer he is and Molly to see the error of her ways. That is what you expect from this predictable script. Well as it happens after a show, one of Colt’s fans tries to kill Colt and ends up committing suicide. Molly somehow takes from this event that A: the music industry is evil (and I don’t know how you draw that logical conclusion) and B: Colt doesn’t care about her (everyone join me in saying “HUH!?”). Then the movie just kind of peters out. Molly moves on with her life and becomes the next big star, Colt continues to by Billy Idol, and Bob Dylan continues to be completely mental.


I guess another reason I don’t care about all the musical numbers is I don’t care all that much about Fiona. Her music kind of sounds like an even more mellow version of Pat Benatar. While her songs aren’t bad, they aren’t what I paid money to see. I didn’t come to see the Fiona story, I came to see Bob Dylan. I didn’t come to hear Fiona’s greatest hits, I came to hear Bob Dylan. If you didn’t feel right making him the star, you shouldn’t have made the movie. But I don’t like the bait and switch here. Dylan didn’t wreck a good movie here, in fact his crappy acting salvages it to fun camp.


In the end, Hearts of Fire is a bit of a mixed bag. I had a fun time with it, and if they had more Dylan I could almost recommend it as a campy romp (Bob Dylan’s Purple Rain as it were). But the Fiona sections really bogged down the movie and were almost painfully boring. For some, this might be fun to watch as an oddity but for most people I can’t recommend it. It’s bad, but not gloriously bad.



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