The Warriors

THE WARRIORS. 1979

Director: Walter Hill

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl



While I wasn't totally absorbed by this film, it has an artful elegance. It is set in the near future so that the variouis New York gangs don't have to refer to anything quite realistic. There is nothing futuristic about this tale of gang strife, but it is shot at such a high level of otherworldly stylishness that it is easy to believe it's not quite the here-&-now.

Director Walter Hill has elected to frame each scene like a comic book panel as in the pictorial novel. The gangs are costume-coded on the verge of credibility, though some of the gangs are totally off-the-wall -- a gang of mimes; a gang that wears clown make-up & vintage baseball uniforms fighting with bats; a gang of femme lesbians.

The Warriors are a gang from Coney Island. A small group of Warriors has crossed the full length of the Bronx to attend a rally of all the important gangs, where a cultish guru of a charismatic gangleader, with the silly slogan "Can you dig it," is on the verge of forging a city-wide alliance such as could potentially allow the youth gangs to take over New York city & rule it.

But this man is assassinated, the peace never occurs, & the Warriors have to cross the city to get safely back to Coney Island, with every gang along their route convinced they were the ones who killed the near-peacebringer.

The film opens with some comic book images of Xenophon leading his Greek mercenaries across ancient Persia to the sea, & begs the viewer to imagine these near-future gangbangers as heroic Greeks in a hostile land just trying to get back home alive. Alas it doesn't achieve the mythic or heroic proportions to which it pretends.

The film has achieved a cult status over the years in great part because it was not easy to get a chance to see it (& see that it's good but not great), so it was possible to imagine it bigger & better than it is.

When first released, it sparked gang riots outside cinemas, & was soon withdrawn from distribution. And that's indeed the stuff that cult status can arise out of, even for a film that could not have achieved such status on its merits. It's nevertheless an entertaining film, it's just no Rumble Fish.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl




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