Movie of the Week: The Warriors (1979)

The Warriors

Walter Hill directs Michael Beck, James Remar and Dorsey Wright in this fantasy gang actioner about a squad of rebel youths who have to fight their way back home to Coney Island over one crazy night. 

A movie I have nothing but uncritical, devoted mad love for. One of the first cult films I embraced as my very own as an almost teen. It was the poster on my wall at uni. The film I proudly shared with all my girlfriends knowing they’d love it. But that all makes it a very hard movie to write about. I guess what keeps me obsessed is the glimpses of all those crazy gangs. Their uniforms, their cultures, their turf. The shit your pants ominous Baseball Furies, the military unity of The Gramercy Riffs, the unlikely madness of The Mimes. I mean… imagine The Mimes starting some shit with you on the subway platform after midnight.

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Hill dashes us through an alternative universe Big Apple. Rich in comic book detail, yet mostly left intriguingly unexplored. The scramble and fight sequences have a pulse raising, sweat inducing directness. If The Warriors are engaged then they rarely move on without losing a team member, no matter how hard they fight back… they are leaderless from the first act. This message is clear from the off, this night out in the city ain’t just “a trim hunt.” Anyone and everyone is at risk. There’s macho posturing… Remar as the pussy focussed hard man desperate to be in charge absolutely rocks, while Beck has his thousand yard stare down pat, a street tough gallantry wafts from him. The New York they get lost in is a rain soaked wasteland. Deserted apart from the hives of  antagonists. Edward Hopper was a visual influence. Figures lost in the shadowy gaps between dead buildings abound.

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You get continuous portions of perfection. The messiah-like Cyrus’ rally is convincing stuff. Sign me up. I dig it. I DIG IT! Barry De Vorzon’s pulsating, synthy alarm of a score is a disco infused rattler. The party at The Lizzies makes frizzy haired girls dancing the most foreboding sight you’ve ever seen. The most unsettling moment though isn’t when cops hound the heroes on to the railways tracks or howling packs of skinheads chase them down in a prison van, it is a quiet interlude when the exhausted and filthy survivors share a dawn train carriage with some middle class kids out on a late night date. No one can make eye contact. The underworld strivers and the carefree prom night kids pass each other wordlessly. They can not comprehend the night each other has just had. Then we get David Patrick Kelly’s Misfit instigator and his threatening bottles. “Warriors… Come out to PLLLLAAAAAAYYYY-AAAAAIIII!” And here’s the thing, the second the sun rises and the quest is over and the 90 minutes of cult movie brilliance finishes up on a victorious freeze frame … I want to start it all again. Be bopping with The Warriors right back across all the five borough… “Be looking good Warriors. Real good.”

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