Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The Warriors

There are cult movies, and then there are cult movies. Films that have been included as part of the cultural zeitgeist, and have stayed there. One such film is Walter Hill's 1979 classic The Warriors. The Warriors, which was (very loosely) adapted from a novel by Sol Yurick, is the story of The Warriors (of course), a gang from Coney Island. In the opening moments of the film, we see discussions among The Warriors of a summit they are attending at midnight, a summit called by Cyrus, the charismatic leader of the Grammercy Riffs. Interspersed with those scenes are other scenes of wonderfully colorful gangs going to the summit. Gangs dressed like mimes, pimps, etc. Each gang sends 9 unarmed representatives to Central Park. There, Cyrus delivers a speech about how there are SO MANY gang members, and so few police, and how they could own the city if they were to unite. However, Cyrus is shot by Luther (David Patrick Kelly, probably best known as T-Bird from The Crow), leader of the Rogues. Luther blames it on The Warriors, when he notices that one of them saw him commit the act, leaving The Warriors to try and make it all the way home to Coney Island.....with every gang in New York City looking for them.
I mentioned The Crow earlier, which is not just significant as a film that features David Patrick Kelly as a scenery-chewing heavy, but another film I love for some of the same reasons that I love The Warriors. For one thing, there are a lot of very competent performances from very obscure actors. The biggest "stars" in the film are probably Kelly and James Remar (Who? Yeah, exactly....). The fact that the performances make an impression is significant because they do so against such a strange, surreal version of New York, much like The Crow does with its ultraviolent, almost gothic Detroit. It should seem ridiculous that there is a gang that dresses up as baseball players with quasi KISS makeup, says nothing, and whales on people with baseball bats, but it works here. The film also has going for it a good length, good pacing, and great cinematography by Andrew Laszlo (Shogun, Newsies, First Blood).
As great as The Warriors is, it has several drawbacks. One is that the film flirts with violence against women a little too closely, though it doesn't cross that line. Another is is that it might seem aged to some, something that the "Directors Cut" DVD doesn't help. Though there are some good added scenes, there are ill-advised framing sequences made to look like comic-book panels to help the (very dumb, apparently) viewer understand the comic-book feel that the movie is supposed to have. Ummm, thanks. I really didn't get that from the KISS/baseball gang, or any of the other flamboyant gangs in the film, for that matter. I saw this on the big screen at midnight at the Coolidge Corner Theater in Brookline a few months ago, and they projected the DVD, instead of showing an actual film print of it. Booooooooo.
All the above bitching aside, The Warriors is a really fun film. The strange feel of the film has kept it from aging too much, and I'm sure it feels very much the same way now that it did back in 1979. I give the Warriors a 16 out of 22 on the 22 scale.

Memorable Lines:

Mercy: "Yeah, that's right, Warriors. Just keep walkin'. Real tough muthas, ain't ya? You guys don't show me much. Why don't you dickheads just walk all the way back home, huh?"

Ajax: "I'll shove that bat up your @$$ and turn you into a popsicle."

Sully, Leader of The Orphans: "You see what you get, Warriors? You see what you get when you mess with the Orphans?"

Luther: "Waaaarrrrrriiiorsss, come out to pla-ay!"


Wicked Little Critta said...

Wow, now I know what they're quoting from MST3K.

So, out of extreme curiosity after your description of this movie, I youtubed a couple of scenes from the film. All I have to say is: LOL!

The choice of a baseball uniform-wearing bat-toting clown-faced gang is amazing. The filmmakers get points there for sheer creativity. Although, from the scene I saw, they kinda suck as a gang. They remind me of confused storm troopers on Halloween.

Dr. Worm said...

One of my students just handed in an essay where he discusses the book version. Have you read the book, YRF? How does the movie compare?

Your Racist Friend said...

I haven't read the book yet, but it sounds drastically different from the description on Wikipedia. The gang of protagonists is a LOT less sympathetic and "heroic" than the Warriors. The book sounds a lot more realistic. But it doesn't have the awesomeness of the Warriors fighting the Punks, a rollerskating gang in a subway bathroom.