Once Aryan Skynet Goes Live It Doesn't Matter Who Pulled The Switch
The decline and collapse of the Soviet Union and the relaxation of emigration restrictions in the Second World would witness an exodus of Jews from formerly socialist republics to the United States and a rising cultural awareness of the “Russian” mafia in America as depicted (or distorted) in movies like Little Odessa (1994), Training Day (2001), and Eastern Promises (2007). A film that is interesting for its comparatively early depiction of a “Russian” gangster émigré from the Soviet Union – predating even Ed O’Ross’s portrayal of Georgian drug smuggler Viktor Rostavili in Walter Hill’s action classic Red Heat (1988) – is Elya Baskin’s minor turn as Jewish gangster Klebanov in director Joe Roth’s underappreciated boxing drama Streets of Gold (1986). Klebanov, who has succeeded in business as the owner of a New York nightclub, reflects with satisfaction how he was only “a smuggler, a schemer” back in Odessa, but that he was really “born to be rich in America.” America, as imagined in Streets of Gold, is a Jewish birthright and a Promised Land – an idea given winking acknowledgment when the movie’s protagonist, Jewish pugilist Alek Neuman (Klaus Maria Brandauer), passes a window boasting a neon sign advertising the Zion Delicatessen – a glimpse of “Zion” not as a parcel of land somewhere in the Middle East, but realized in the liberty of the American economy.
While Klebanov embodies the Jewish-American dream in business, however, his friend Neuman harbors a harder and more ambitious aspiration to civilizational revenge. Released the year after the thematically similar Rocky IV (1985), Streets of Gold is quintessential Reagan-era propaganda corroborating the neoconservative narrative of those years that the Soviet Union was “anti-Semitic” and oppressive of its Jewish population in preventing their emigration to Israel or the United States – this resentment toward the U.S.S.R. finding an outlet in, for instance, comedian Yakov Smirnoff’s recurring role as the freedom-and-capitalism-enamored defector Yakov Korolenko on Night Court. Neuman, too, has managed to get out of Russia, but is not content merely to wash dishes and drink himself into a stupor. A genius of the ring who was barred from representing Russia in international boxing competitions because he is Jewish, Neuman destroyed his career when he assaulted anti-Semitic Soviet boxing coach Malinovsky (Jaroslav Stremien). Now, in America, Neuman finds two young fighters, Irish-American Timmy Boyle (Adrian Pasdar) and black Muslim Roland Jenkins (Wesley Snipes), who have the potential to upset a visiting Russian team led by his old enemy Malinovsky. Teaching them everything he knows, Neuman both transforms them into champions and turns them into a cohesive team, freeing them from their prejudices and realizing the potential of the American melting pot, forging a multicultural golem capable of challenging and smashing the Soviet colossus. “You’re his fists. You have to fight for him now,” explains love interest Elena (Angela Molina). Streets of Gold thus allegorizes a neoconservative vision of the United States as the geopolitical-economic vehicle of righteous vengeance against the hated land of pogroms and Stalinist anti-Zionism.
Setting aside its historical background and subtext, Streets of Gold is a wholly enjoyable, inspirational sports drama with an affecting score by the great Jack Nitzsche. Eighties buffs are encouraged to give it a shot on one of these cold winter nights.
Rainer Chlodwig von K.
Rainer is the author of Protocols of the Elders of Zanuck: Psychological Warfare and Filth at the Movies – the DEFINITIVE Alt-Right statement on Hollywood!