This seems to be one of those movies American kids of the 80s and 90s grew up on. Over the years I’ve read constant references and quotes in articles and reviews online. A few years ago when it hit its 30th anniversary, I remember there being a lot of renewed interest on pop culture and movie sites. I don’t know if it passed all of Australia by, or just managed to pass me by, but until last night, I had never seen The Warriors.
First of all, I have to say that after one viewing, I can see exactly why this seems to be such a favourite with people of a certain age. Having watched it now, in my 30s, I really liked it. But I have to imagine that if I’d seen it when I was 12 or 13, it would have blown my mind.
A gang leader named Cyrus calls a mass summit of all the major New York Gangs. Nine representatives of each gang makes the trek to the Bronx, unarmed and ready for a truce. Cyrus gives an impassioned speech about how if they could only unite, their 100,000 strong numbers would be more than enough to take the city from the 20,000 cops keeping them down. Just as he works the crowd into a frenzy, Cyrus is shot by Luther, leader of the Rogues, who immediately pins the murder on Cleon, leader of the Warriors, a gang from Coney Island. Now there are eight Warriors, unarmed and more than 20 miles from home, with every gang and cop in the city trying to find them.
As far as movie setups go, this is some efficient shit, right here. Straight away, we have our core group, the eight remaining Warriors. And we have stakes and a threat, as they’re established far from home with no protection and a city out for their blood. Now it’s a race through the city to survive the night and make it home.
With Cleon dead, Swan (Michael Beck) assumes leadership of what’s left of his gang, with some jealous resistance from Ajex (James Remar), but The Warriors never slows down to really explore this. It’s too interested in kicking ass and steamrolling through gang after gang of increasingly cheesy costume and theme.
It’s funny how perceptions change. In 1979, this was an attempt to crate genuinely tough, threatening and masculine baddasses not to be messed with. But today, if Saturday Night Live was doing a sketch about an overly camp Broadway musical version of The Warriors, the original costumes from the movie would seem too comedy-gay and over the top.
The other interesting thing about its age is how hard it would be to make The Warriors today. So much of the threat, tension and action comes out of their isolation. They have no way to contact the rest of the gang back in Coney Island, and if they get separated, the chances of finding one another are slim. All this while trying to find a train station to catch their salvation home. You make that movie in 2013 and every problem can be solved in a few seconds with a mobile phone and ATM card.
The fact that terms like “Can you dig it?” and “Warriors, come out and play” had subconsciously worked their way into my brain years ago meant I knew I was dealing with a cult classic. What I wasn’t ready for was how much fun it was and how much I liked it. It’s rare that movies people love from their childhood hold up for someone who finally gets around to it as an adult. But with the Warriors, I totally get it.
Directed By – Walter Hill
Written By – David Shaber, Walter Hill