Friday, April 23, 2004

Movie Review: The Warriors

United States, 1979
Running Time: 1:34
Rated: R
Cast: Michael Beck, James Remar, David Harris, David Patrick Kelly, Mercedes Ruehl, Lynne Thigpen, Deborah Van Valkenburgh, Thomas Waites, Roger Hill

Director: Walter Hill
Producer: Lawrence Gordon
Screenplay: Walter Hill, David Shaber
Music: Barry Devorzon
Studio: Paramount

The dreary subway stations and dark streets of New York, with their gargantuan amount of graffiti, set the overall mood for this cult classic. The dirty-colored walls and the piled-high refuse represent the true grime of the inner-city lifestyles of the countless armies of the night.

Thousands upon thousands of New York Street gangs converge at one center to let Cyrus (Roger Hill), the leader of all gang leaders, speak about overtaking the city from the police. At this rally, the leader of the gang entitled the Rogues (Joel Weiss), murders (or possibly even assassinates in this case) Cyrus, by quickly pulling the trigger. He then optimistically assumes that no one saw him complete the act. However, one person did--a Warrior.

The leader of the Rogues quickly points his finger and pins the blame on the Warriors--one of the toughest bunches out on the streets. Now, the wrongfully accused Warriors must run for their lives and try to return home to Coney Island safely. Only there are over 20,000 cops and over 100,000 different gang members out for the tough band of brothers who sport the burgundy brown leather vests and let their chests (either fit and muscular or hairier than a wooly mammoth) hang out to intimidate their many opposing enemies. The Warriors have it tough and are in for one wild night—an all-out sprint for their home territory, from the most fearsome squads the streets have to offer.

This movie possesses the look, style, and feel of Escape from New York, but Michael Beck as Swan, overlord of the Warriors, does not even come close to Kurt Russell’s powering screen presence as Snake Pliskin; however, the gang as a whole definitely does. This movie also shares hints of being an interpretation of West Side Story; it seems like the inner battle of the Warriors vs. the Rogues is also like that of the Jets vs. the Sharks, only instead of all the dancing and singing, there is nothing but violence and savagery between the two poor-stricken street teams. Other than the Rogues and the Warriors, there are the Orphans, the Turnbull AC’s, the High Hats, the Lizzies, the Gramercy Riffs, and the face-painted Baseball Furies, who surely inspired an age of Fury Halloween costumes. All of these thugs and hoodlums provide in the exciting hunt for the brawling bad-boy bunch, the Warriors.

Lynn Thigpen serves as the narrator of the story as she announces to all the Boppers, the Warriors' situation and location. Her red, shiny, large lips release the radio D.J. voice, that would eventually land her the role of the Chief on television’s “Where in the World is Carmen Santiago?”

With The Warriors, you get your fair share of memorable one-liners such as, “Can You Dig It?” and indeed the most memorable line from this film and possible one of the most memorable in all of cinema for me, “Warriors…come out and play-yay.” This classic quote occurs as the leader of the Rogues, with his crazed and whiny voice, clangs three pony beer bottles on the tips of his fingers together, mocking his crew of counterparts. Also, you receive a flavorful, new-age, electronically synthesized score, equip with the perfectly selected song to end the picture with, Joe Walsh’s “In the City”. On the other hand, you get a totally unnecessary police pull-up scene, where Ajax is hand-cuffed to a bench—this is my one and only gripe about the movie and it is so small that it probably shouldn’t even be mentioned.

All in all, this film is a true treat from the 70’s that many have probably not seen nor heard of; but give this flick credit where credit is due, and make this a picture you can recognize by title and plot. The Warriors is by no means overrated, and even though its styles are obviously outdated, this film will always be fun, fantastical, and able to withstand the test of time. (***1/2 out of ****)

© Copyright Brandon Valentine 2004