The Warriors (1979)

 Posted by on May 11, 2011  HCF Reviews
May 112011
 

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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

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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.

Rating: ★★★★☆

[pt-filmtitle]The Warriors[/pt-filmtitle]

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  5 Responses to “The Warriors (1979)”

  1. Dr Lenera

    This is one cult movie I haven’t seen, I really want to after reading your review! Walter Hill made several films I really like, such as Streets Of Fire and Southern Comfort.

    • Oh you must! The story is very tight knit, so you feel you know and care for the guys who are The Warriors. It’s a very basic plot really, but very well executed. Plus, if you ever have to go to a fancy dress party, you’ll get loads of ideas! The videogame is brill too.

  2. Matt Wavish

    I LOVE The Warriors, one of my favourite old classics of all time. It may look dated now, but if you grew up loving this film then, to me, it still feels fresh. As you say, the whole cast are superb and there’s some great fight scenes. My favourite ‘enemy’ of the Warriors was also the Baseball Furies, creepy little fuckers with their face paint and baseball bats. “I’ll shove that bat up your ass and turn you into a popsickle!” Ah, great writing, great pacing, great characters, awesome fights and, as you say, superb music. Dr, you really must see this, before the god damned remake comes out!

    • I always enjoy watching it. Like you said, it still feels fresh and gritty even though it’s 32yrs old! Those Baseball Furies were probably the fiercest looking enemies of The Warriors. The Punks were laughable and those Orphans. You have to watch out for The Lizzies though, they’d trap you. I would not like to face up against the Riffs either, there’s so many of them!

  3. Matt Wavish

    The Riffs were frightening, but the Warriors aint scared. I love that bit at the end “You Warriors are good, real good” and then Swan confidently looks at the Riffs leader right in the eye and staes “the best”. Brilliant!

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