Friday, November 25, 2011

The Warriors

Wow, where was The Warriors when I was a teenager? I mean, it was out there, but I never even heard of it until I was in my twenties, and just got around to watching it recently. If I had seen it as a teen, it would probably have been given the same heavy rotation that Evil Dead 2 and Big Trouble in Little China got in my VCR.

The Warriors is a 1979 cult classic directed by Walter Hill, set in Brooklyn in the near future where gangs rule the streets. Cyrus, who appears to be the Martin Luther King Jr. of street gangs, calls a huge meeting, with the intention of forming a United Nations of gangs. Together, they would outnumber the police three to one. But before the alliance can be formed, Cyrus is gunned down by an unstable member of The Rogues, who then pins the assassination on The Warriors. The Warriors must then get back to the safe haven of their home turf in Coney Island while every gang in the city is out for their heads, not to mention the police.

The movie has a very post-apocalyptic feel. 1979 New York is run down and nasty looking. Graffiti completely covers the subway walls. Walter Hill is also very deliberately invoking comic books, right down to illustrated scene transitions, making it appear that the film is jumping right off the panels. It reminded me of Frank Miller's comic book work of the mid-80's, such as The Dark Knight Returns, though The Warriors predates Miller's fame by a couple of years.

I love that every gang has a dress code and a theme. That's something from a lot of 80's pop culture that I wish were real. The Warriors and a few others just have logos and jackets or vests. But some gangs go all out, with pinstriped baseball uniforms, full clown makeup, what have you. If Walter Hill had included shots of the clown gang sitting in front of a mirror putting on their makeup so they could go beat some ass, they would have lost a lot of their menace.

The police are also always on The Warriors' tails. At least I think it was the police. I have a theory that they might have just been a police-themed gang trying to join the alliance, but things just got out of hand. Maybe they should consider a fireman theme.

I'm glad I finally saw The Warriors. I tend to watch a lot of older, more straightforward classics, but for me, it's always a real treat to find something like this; a unique, strange little movie set in its own universe with its own rules and sensibilities. It's a shame I didn't get to watch The Warriors over and over again in my VCR days, because it would have been perfect for that.

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