The Warriors [retro review]

“Waaaarrrrrriiiorsss, come out to pla-ay!”

The Scoop: 1979 R, directed by Walter Hill and starring Michael Beck, James Remar, and Dorsey Wright

Tagline: These are the Armies of The Night. They are 100,000 strong. They outnumber the cops five to one. They could run New York City. Tonight they’re all out to get the Warriors.

Summary Capsule: It’s not a good night to be a Warrior — that evening commute is a drag.

Justin’s Rating: An infestation of mimes? Use your invisible machine gun!

Justin’s Review: This is why I love cult film! While the majority of the population declares that a film must be brilliant in all aspects before being deemed a “good movie”, we cult lovers know that most of our movies are flawed and faulty, but have some juicy traits that make it irresistible to adore. Don’t we now?

The Warriors is no perfect film. Far from it. The acting… well, let’s just leave it that people show up, their mouths move, and words flow forth. It does the job, in a minimum wage-sort of way. The plot itself is no grand epic, and the fight scenes are perhaps tame and quaint for today’s gory movie battlefields.

So why has this grown into a much-loved cult flick that’s endured for well over a quarter of a century? I think it’s all about a few of those juicy traits I mentioned before — the soundtrack, the style, the attitude — that easily makes this a guilty pleasure to rewatch often.

Loosely, oh-so-loosely based on “Anabasis”, an ancient tale of Greek mercs who find themselves trapped far behind enemy lines and have to battle their way home, The Warriors tries to hang on to this same basic concept. In a grim post-apocalyptic New York City of the future/past, where gang presence is at an all-time high and there is no more daylight for little children to skip and play in, a charismatic gang leader named Cyrus calls together delegates from all of the city’s gangs with an interesting proposition. Together, if they banded as a massive gang, they could easily overpower the cops and rule the entire city.

Joining this conference are nine members of The Warriors, a Native American-themed gang from Coney Island. We learn from this film that all gangs love their themes very much, no matter how ridiculous (mimes) it might (mimes) seem to you and I (mimes). The Warriors are a super-studly bunch of bad dudes in leather vests, but arrive at the conference without weapons (as per instructions).

Then, in the middle of his rally, Cyrus is shot by an assassin, the police show up, the gang truce is called off, and The Warriors find themselves blamed for the attack and in the middle of enemy territory without an easy way home. Happily, they’re all bone-headed jocks who figure that their sweet 10″ pecs are more than enough power to get themselves all the way back to Coney Island. Here we go!

This fairly simple, if catchy, premise fuels the remaining run of the film. I really grooved on how the movie itself is set up, like a comic book where scenes are transitioned between panels, with various information blurbs overhead. It made for a speedy run time and kept me informed as to who was who and where were who and what who wanted with who. I just broke my “double-u” key.

In their encounters with various gangs and the cops, The Warriors find their numbers whittling down and the situation increasingly hostile. Part of the fun was to see who, exactly, they’d bump into next, and how they’d handle it.

Some of the film’s dialogue has long become immortalized — an enemy gang leader clinking together beer bottles and shrieking “Warriors, come out to playyyyyy!” might be known to many peeps who haven’t even seen this film. Instead of finding the bad acting off-putting, I kind of enjoyed the spirit of how bad it was, and how earnest all of these young guys and girls were in their pursuit of artistic excellence and gang bopping. You know you have to love a film where a guy falls for a girl, kisses her, and then is like, “Who needs you anyway?” and walks off in the next minute. Was Kyle weaned on this movie?

In today’s world, see it as a spiritual predecessor to Sin City, and give yourself a present today of a viewing of this flick. Can you dig it?

Edward Bottlehands

Intermission!

  • The scene in the men’s room with the Punks was the only scene shot on set.
  • David Patrick Kelly (Luther) improvised the famous line “Warriors, come out to play!” and based it upon a taunt that an old neighbour used to chant to him as a kid.
  • In the subway where Mercy is running with Fox’s double, she fell and sprained her wrist because the actor didn’t let go of her hand. This is why she later appears in a jacket as it is covering up the bandage.
  • Loosely based on Xenophon’s “Anabasis”, the account of an army of Greek mercenaries who, after aligning themselves with Cyrus the Younger in the battle of Cunaxa (401 BC) in his attempt to seize the Persian throne, found themselves isolated behind Persian enemy lines.
  • Director Walter Hill originally wanted the Warriors to be an all black gang, but the producers disagreed.
  • The Baseball Furies were created due to Walter Hill’s love of baseball and the music group Kiss.
  • Newcomers were cast to create the feel of “real people caught in dangerous situations”. The cast felt like they were a gang before filming started.
  • When the fictitious Turnbull ACs visited a hamburger joint during filming, people fled in fear of being attacked.

Groovy Quotes

Cyrus: Now, here’s the sum total: One gang could run this city! One gang. Nothing would move without us allowing it to happen. We could tax the crime syndicates, the police, because WE got the streets, suckers! Can you dig it?

Swan: [to Mercy] Why don’t you just tie a mattress to your back? You don’t care where it is, do you?

Luther: You Warriors are good. Real good.
Swan: The best.

Cochese: We’re going in there with nothing?
Snow: We’re going like everybody else: nine guys, no weapons.

Rembrandt: The chicks are packed! The chicks are packed!

Luther: Waaaarrrrrriiiorsss, come out to pla-ay!

If you liked this movie, try these:

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2 Comments

  1. Pingback: The Midnight Meat Train | Mutant Reviewers From Hell

  2. Pingback: Eunice does Bunraku | Mutant Reviewers

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