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Who are the Warriors ? I want all the Warriors !
on October 17, 2000
Walter Hill ( 48 hrs, Hard Times ) shows his directing flair for action, drama and style in this crackling 1979 movie about a Coney Island gang falsely accused of murder and fleeing from their accusers....including the other NYC gangs and the New York City Police Department.
Hill successfully adapted the moderately popular novel by author Sol Yurick who worked with the NYC Dept of Welfare in the 1950's. Yurick used the basis of ancient Greek history and the torturous trek home by Greek soldiers after their leader , Cyrus the Younger, was killed in the Persian Wars...and simply updated the setting to modern day NY and it's raging gang warfare embracing the five boroughs !
Set amongst a hostile, nocturnal world of neon lit train stations, baseball bat wielding gang members and lethal, gun toting women "The Warriors" moves along at a frenetic pace with a fine selection of young actors taking the lead. Michael Beck plays the cool headed, "war chief" Swan, seeking to get the other members back home to Coney Island alive and in one piece. James Remar is unforgettable as the woman chasing, hot headed Ajax...always out to prove his manhood with his fists. And David Patrick Kelly is perfect as the murderous, but ultimately cowardly leader of the Rogues.
Attending a combined gangs meeting deep in the South Bronx to hear the Gramercy Riffs plans to control the streets of New York, the Warriors are wrongly accused of the shooting death of their charismatic leader, Cyrus. The finger of blame pointed their way, they flee via any means they can and upon their way back to home base encounter violent opposition from the low life Orphans, the shaven headed Turnbull AC's, the face painted Baseball Furies, the seductive all female gang, the Lizzies and even rifts within their own ranks lead to trouble.
The film was roundly savaged by several sections of the community (mainly law enforcement & welfare groups) upon it's release for apparently inciting gang violence and it's poor depiction of inner city street kids, and yes, there were several nasty incidents at theatre's upon the film's release, but these have been blown well out of all proportion. Although, I must say when the film was released in my country (Australia) it was already riding a wave of notoriety, and attracted "bad boys" in their droves to watch this "infamous" gang flick. When viewed in the cold light of day, the film is actually fairly cartoon like in it;s depiction of urban violence and most anyone who cop's a hiding seems to be left just rubbing his head and moaning (a la Daffy Duck) in discomfort !
Interestingly, out of a on screen line up of strong young talent, very few of the cast went on to any sort of fame & fortune in Hollywood. James Remar has had the most success (with about 70 movies under his belt ) and has continued his motif of tough, aggressive leads in films like "48 Hrs", and plenty of "straight to video" action fare...plus he even crops up regularly on "Sex and the City" & "Third Watch" re-runs ! It's good to see that hard hitting Ajax never left New York ! Actor Marcellino Sanchez who played graffiti artist "Rembrandt" died from cancer only a few years after the films release, and David Patrick Kelly has continued in roles as evil, criminal types...see him in "Commando", "The Crow" & "Wild at Heart" !
I think "The Warriors" occupies quite a sentimental place in my film heart, as I was in my late teens, and hanging around with a group of testosterone filled guys when this film came out, and could somewhat identify with these on screen tough guys and their night time exploits...but I'm much more civilised now !
A colorful, exciting and fast paced film...albeit corny in places with that silly love story sub plot with bee stung lipped, Deborah Van Valkenbergh...it is one of the better made and better remembered teen gang movies !