Linda Blair gets to be tough and sexy in this wild exploitation flick that's one of the more memorable entries in the rape 'n' revenge subgenre. Well, she tries to be tough and sexy. The fact that she can't quite manage to convey any real toughness is one of the many failings that works, somewhat perversely, to make this film more endearing and enjoyable than it has any right to be.
Blair plays Brenda, the top dog in her group of gal pals. She doesn't care about anything, except for her deaf sister, Heather (Linnea Quigley). She certainly doesn't care about the local gang of tough guys who try to occasionally pester her, and she shows that lack of care by taking their car for a joyride. Understandably irked by this lack of respect, the gang decides to get revenge in the only way they see fit. Yes, they rape Heather and land her in hospital with very serious injuries. That leads Brenda to snap. If people thought she was a badass before then they'll rethink that when they see just how badass she can be. In theory.
There's some nasty stuff on display here. For an exploitation film, a gritty revenge movie, this occasionally delivers the sordid content required. The rape scene is a particularly tough sequence to watch, yet it's clumsily juxtaposed with a gratuitous fight scene in a shower room that features Blair and Rebecca Perle as the centre of attention. This highlights the fact that Blair's character wasn't there when needed most by her sister, but it's obviously not done JUST for that reason.
Director Danny Steinmann (who also co-wrote the screenplay with Norman Yonemoto) follows the standard template for this kind of movie. Characters are introduced, with the villains clearly marked out as villains, and confrontations occur, leading to acts of violence that escalate, all the way to a finale that lets everyone go way over the line to get their own bit of justice.
Unfortunately, the whole thing is let down by some horrible dialogue, and some horrible acting from Blair. To look tough and/or sexy, Linda Blair obviously thought that she could act everything out by widening and narrowing her eyes, and smoking cigarettes. Oh, she's also given some swearwords, of course. But that's her whole performance. Robert Dryer, Johnny Venocur, Sal Landi and Scott Mayer are much better as the bunch of baddies, Quigley is very good in one of her first feature roles (as opposed to roles such as "Blonde In Spa" or "Model"), the other girls onscreen don't do too badly, and John Vernon gets to play the most hilariously inappropriate Principal in the history of cinema. The fact that he tells someone to "go fuck an iceberg" is the cherry on top.
If you like this subgenre then you'll like Savage Streets. If you don't then, well, maybe you'll still find something to enjoy here. It veers between the grimy and the hilarious in a way that creates a surprisingly enjoyable end product, although you may find yourself viewing it more as a comedy than a straight thriller.