Crossroads came to theaters in 1986, but even now it’s still an exciting, well produced show — the story-line, acting, and music are superb.
The movie spins a tale of how a teenage boy (Ralph Macchio) and an old man (Joe Seneca), meet and make their way back to a crossroads for a musical rematch against the devil to save the old man’s soul. The story is a cross between a slice of life and a supernatural fable.
The boy, who studied classical guitar at Juilliard, has an obsession with the blues. The old man, who is a remnant of the great old blues musicians of the 1930s and 1940s, is a harmonica player. The boy knows the old man was a partner of the legendary blues musician Robert Johnson and he makes a deal with the old man. He’ll help him return to that crossroads if the old man will teach him a lost Robert Johnson song.
As the show progresses, the two make their way down south to a certain crossroads where the old man once made a deal with the devil. When they finally arrive, it turns out the boy has to pick up his guitar and outplay the devil’s guitar-slinging representative, performed by guitar virtuoso Steve Vai. The guitar dual that ensues is the highlight of the movie. Spoiler alert: the devil’s guitar player loses the battle — Steve Vai puts in a commendable performance when he bumbles, misplays, and must forfeit the match.
Ry Cooder did most of the Crossroads soundtrack, drawing from many blues sources. The soundtrack has an authentic quality which pulls you in with its raw feel — it’s not slick and made-for-Hollywood sounding.
Crossroads Guitar Duel — Steve Vai and Ralph Macchio