This review serves two purposes. I’ve always meant to watch The Warriors but couldn’t find room for it on my Blind Spot Series. It caught my attention on Netflix the other day, but again put it off, instead opting to binge on Community. However, I found I had some time on my hands and got to flicking through Netflix once more, this time with the intention to add to my ‘Because I watched…’ series. Pondering which genre to watch I closed my eyes and scrolled. Landing on Action/Adeventure I figured I could be in luck for something, at least not half bad. I closed my eyes again, scrolled along and boom I’d chosen my film. Sitting back to, well I wouldn’t say relax; Netflix has some crazy stuff lurking behind the Shawshank’s and Usual Suspects. The universe spoke to me that day. The Warriors in all their ‘glam gang thank you ma’am’ glory adorned my screen to great satisfaction, and relief.
"You Warriors are good. Real good."
The year is 1979 and New York’s gang culture is rife with individual rivalries, turf wars, and sartorial expression.
In Walter Hill’s cult classic we open on the eve of a landmark event. Cyrus, the president of the Gramercy Riffs, the most powerful gang in New York, has called a meeting. One hundred gangs have been asked to send nine representatives, unarmed and “not flexing any muscle.”
As Cleon, the leader of ‘The Warriors’ explains the situation we’re introduced to each ‘Warrior’ all dressed to the nines in burgundy leather waistcoats, trash Levi’s, and each sporting the latest in gang fashion headwear. There’s an incredibly cool vibe to the opening sequence set to ‘The Warriors Theme’ by Barry De Vorzon, the smooth guitar riff and kicking drums set things off nicely as we’re introduced to a few of the other gangs in attendance. We got some real funky characters pouring out the woodwork for Cyrus’ big speech, sequin waistcoats, mimes, roller skaters, baseball players, skinheads, and seductresses.
‘The Warriors’ arrive in the Bronx to a “roaring seething mass” (to quote the Propellerheads; and no that isn’t a gang with a propeller fixation) of gang members all sporting their colours proudly amongst each other. Standing tall in the centre of this gathering is a wooden structure, a primitive podium if you like. The man of the hour emerges, fully robed and he soon begins his poetic, rabble rousing speech coaxing each gang member under his wing like the Pied Piper summons his vermin for culling.
"Can you dig it?"
For all his prophetic rhetoric, maddened glances, and eminence, you’d think he’d have better security. As a conspicuous .357 Magnum, at a meeting with no weapons, is passed from gang member to gang member it ends up in the hands of Luther, leader of The Rogues. He takes aim and blasts Cyrus from his self-appointed, self-absorbed ego trip sending the conlave into chaos, a situation made worse by piercing police sirens and swarming cops. Amid all this madness Cleon gets caught up when Luther screams accusations that it was The Warriors who murdered Cyrus. While Cleon is receiving a serious beat down the remaining eight members of The Warriors escape into a nearby graveyard and assess the daunting task at hand. Heading back to Coney Island through enemy territory with every cop in the city hunting anyone affiliated with a recognised gang, “Shit, I wish we was packed.”
To make matters worse the Gramercy Riffs have put out a hit on The Warriors, effectively ending the truce Cyrus spoke so highly of before his untimely demise. Falsely accused and on the run The Warriors set off on their midnight retreat encountering a motley assortment of enemy gangs, pesky police, and one clingy gang roadie.
The simple script makes for some awkwardly amusing dialogue that is extremely dated. But sidling this minor qualm the simplicity actually benefits the film. Allowing for a greater imaginative process and high level of aesthetic detail one of the most alluring features of The Warriors lies in the reveal of each new gang, usually introduced with a killer soundtrack to boot. Deserving special mention are the Baseball Furies, an amalgamation of Walter Hill’s love of baseball and glam rock band Kiss. Exploiting the free reign over the creative process Walter Hill is able to shuffle the script around at will to make for a more authentic picture that includes real gang members from New York, undercover police, and location shoots in the dead of night.
Putting style before substance Hill hasn’t created a masterpiece but it’s thoroughly entertaining. There could be more character development, sure, but ask yourself, are these really characters we need to get to know? Swan inherits the glorifying title of War Lord after Cleon is bopped at the meeting and we understand he’s a tactician with a taciturn root. We’re given enough information to understand Ajax (a young James Remar) is a no-nonsense hitter with a trigger finger and a fast mouth. Rembrandt, observes. Cowboy, is, well pretty useless, and the others just make up the numbers. But as an outfit, as ‘The Warriors’ they succeed in building a heavy hitting image of badassery that gets them from the Bronx to Coney Island against all odds, much to the admiration of the Gramercy Riffs.
As ‘The Warriors’ are chased from station to station the eerily quiet streets of New York’s expansive boroughs come to life, each with a story to tell and a battle to be won. This kooky, absurd, extreme tale of one gang’s struggle for survival is marvelously brought from Sol Yurick’s namesake novel to the silver screen with hyperviolent fight choreography, a cringe worthy script, and one of the greatest movie quotes of all time that earned The Warriors immediate cult status. A Must-see for any cult classic film fan, that has warranted a place alongside Total Recall and The Fifth Element on my Blu-ray Steelbook wish list. Thoroughly Recommend.
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[to the clink, clink of rattling bottles] “Warriors, come out to play-i-ay.”