The Warriors (1979)
Directed by: Walter Hill
Written by: David Shaber, Sol Yurick, Walter Hill
Starring: Brian Tyler, David Harris, David Patrick Kelly, Deborah Van Valkenburgh, Dorsey Wright, James Remar, Marcelino Sánchez, Michael Beck, Roger Hill, Terry Michos, Tom McKitterick
The Warriors (1979)
Directed by Walter Hill
Written by Sol Yurick (novel), David Shaber and Walter Hill
Starring Michael Beck, James Remar, Dorsey Wright, Brian Tyler, David Harris, Tom McKitterick, Marcelino Sánchez, Terry Michos, Deborah Van Valkenburgh, Roger Hill and David Patrick Kelly
New York… a city run by gangs which defend their turf from rival outfits. When Cyrus (Roger Hill), leader of the biggest gang in New York, ‘The Gramercy Riffs’, summons all the gangs to send 9 unarmed representatives to meet in the centre of New York, The Warriors from Coney Island, led by Cleon (Dorsey Wright), make the journey to the meeting. Cyrus reveals his plan of a truce between all the gangs and how they should unite to make one ultimate, 100,000 strong army, which would make them the most powerful people on the streets, outnumbering the police 5:1. The gangs react well to Cyrus’ plan but amidst the crowds a shot is fired, killing Cyrus instantly. When the culprit publicly blames The Warriors as the murderers, the gang have to make the long journey home from the Bronx back to Coney Island whilst fighting to survive the violent gangs lining the streets on the way….
This is a top little film with so much atmosphere. We are quickly introduced to the main characters of the film on the train journey to Cyrus’ meetup. Cleon is the leader, calm and collected, with Swan (Michael Beck) the War Chief, who shares the same qualities. Ajax (James Remar) is the hot headed, aggressive, confrontational Warrior with Rembrandt (Marcelino Sánchez) the youngest of the gang who is in charge of spraying The Warriors ‘W’ tag wherever they visit. After Cyrus is killed, The Warriors have to survive the numerous gangs that try to take them down, including the wimpish Orphans, the skinhead Turnbull AC’s, the dangerous Baseball Furies, the deceptive Lizzies and the dungaree clad Punks. The Warriors pick up a mouthy chick named Mercy who wanted ‘more action’ than she was getting by associating with small time outfit, The Orphans. When The Warriors get split up, Mercy accompanies Swan and an unspoken connection grows between them. When faced with other gangs and the police, Mercy shows she can roll with the guys and defends herself.
The film features lots of fist fighting and weapons are used aplenty, with The Warriors armed with molotov cocktails and The Baseball Furies with baseball bats. The Warriors are a likeable gang, even Ajax who is cocky but has a cheeky charm. When the Riffs suspect The Warriors of killing their leader, they inform the female DJ of a local radio station and she acts as narrator in a sense, informing the other gangs of The Warriors whereabouts.
Most of the film is set at night time, with the gang meetup in the late evening. Back streets, parks and train stations are the set for attacks from rival gangs and the police, all of whom The Warriors have to avoid or defeat in order to reach Coney Island safely. The music is nostalgic with Tangerine Dream’s ‘Betrayal’ and of course, music by Barry de Vorzon which fits the opening scene perfectly, giving that dark, gritty edge to the movie.
Walter Hill who directed the film, went on to produce the entire Alien series as well as the upcoming Prometheus and also directed the cult tv series, Deadwood. The guy has talent in whatever he does and he made a tight knit gang movie in The Warriors. Each gang had their own distinctive mark and made use of the environment around them in the fight scenes to depict a very real feeling movie.
Michael Beck, who played war-chief Swan, hasn’t done much since The Warriors when compared to his fellow Warrior, James Remar (who played Ajax). James was the original Hicks in Aliens, until he was fired for turning up late. This hasn’t hindered his career, as he continued his acting career in Hellraiser: Inferno, tv series Dexter and FlashForward as well as providing voices for kids cartoon Ben10 and various videogames.
Another actor who seem to have shared similar success is David Patrick Kelly, who played Luther, leader of The Rogues. It seems a long time since David sang “Warriors, come out to play!”, having since starred in Twin Peaks, The Crow, Commando and K-Pax.
A few of the actors reunited in 2005 to lend their voices to The Warriors videogame created by Rockstar Games so all the fans could relive the fun and the excitement that the Warriors brought. As soon as we see the Wonder Wheel, we too know we are back in Coney Island.