Crossroads is one of Walter Hills finest films. Again, it is a story where Hill is in search of modern mythologies. Partially, Crossroads is a blues version of the story of The Devil and Daniel Webster (1937) about a man who argues for his soul back after selling it to The Devil. The character of Willie Brown the blues magician who sold his soul to The Devil for success is based upon the true-life character of blues legend Robert Johnson, which the film incorporates into the story. [The same legend also turns up in the Coen Brothers O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)].
Crossroads is not so much a fantasy film as it is a contemplation and analysis of the blues itself. It has one of the most exceptionally formulated screenplays in years. At its simplest, Crossroads is a road movie, but one that Walter Hill allows to become a bittersweet journey into a deepening Mississippi heartland, to exorcise its Baptist demons of sorts. It is a haunting screenplay, filled with scenes where it can turn about on itself and deliver beautiful epithets that for a moment seem to hold true notes of human character in their hands the moment where the bartender turns on Jami Gertz for lifting a mans wallet to tell her that he may have deserved it but he has a wife and kids to support too; or Willies consolation of Ralph Macchio, heart-broken over Jami Gertzs leaving, Its what the blues are made of ... The blues aint nothin but good men feeling sad.
Joe Seneca, himself a singer with the soul group The Three Riffs, gives a wonderful performance as the crotchety, blithely optimistic but frightened Willie. It is the stuff that Oscar nominations should be made of. Joe Seneca earned minor attention here and played parts in several films, most notably The Blob (1988) and A Time to Kill (1996), up until his death in 1996. Ralph Macchio, fresh from The Karate Kid (1984) and still playing the eternally innocent teenager at the age of 25 and giving another of his wimpish wet-eared performances, is one of the few negative marks about the film. The most stunning aspect is the stirringly moody blues score from Ry Cooder. The climactic guitar duel between Ralph Macchio and former Frank Zappa guitarist Steve Vai is a stunning set-piece.
Walter Hills other forays into genre film-making are: Southern Comfort (1981) about a troupe of soldiers being hunted in the bayous by Cajuns; the science-fiction film Supernova (2000); and The Assignment (2016) about a hitman seeking revenge after gender reassignment surgery was forced onto him. Hill was also to have been the original director of Alien (1979) before being replaced by Ridley Scott, with he retaining only producer credit on the film, plus all of the sequels. Hill was also executive producer on the Tales from the Crypt (1989-96) anthology tv series.