Review – The Warriors (1979)
The premise of The Warriors is fairly simple. The Riffs, the biggest gang in New York, call a meeting in The Bronx. Every gang in the city are invited, on the understanding that each gang send nine unarmed members. During the summit, Cyrus, the leader of The Riffs is shot and killed, in the middle of a speech, where he’s asking the countless gangs present, to band together, and basically take over the city. A Coney Island outfit, The Warriors, are wrongfully accused of the shooting, and find themselves on the run from other gangs, and cops, as they race back to their stomping ground, their turf. Will they make it back to Coney Island in one piece, with having to cross the territories of various other gangs, who are all out to kill them???
This classic tale of survival against the odds was released back in 1979. It’s based on the book of the same name by Sol Yurick. It courted controversy right from the very beginning, as stories emerged of gang related violence, during and after screenings of the film. These stories were mostly untrue. The problem wasn’t with the film itself, the issue came from the fact that the movie was very popular amongst gang members in general, who would turn up in force to watch it. Two rival gangs would turn up at the same cinema, and you can guess the rest.
The movie is apparently set sometime in the future but it’s never actually confirmed, unless you watch the Ultimate Directors Cut, which announces the fact at the begining. Personally i thought it had faint echoes of John Carpenters Escape from New York, and the general tone of the film suggest that maybe Carpenters bleak vision of NYC was influenced ever so slightly by The Warriors. The film definetely shows the darker, dirtier side of New York. There are no Broadway lights or bright yellow taxis here.
The Warriors is a straightforward action movie. It’s packed to the rafters with chase sequences and well choreographed fight scenes. The gangs are colourful, especially the bat wielding Baseball Furies. We also get to meet, among others, The Orphans, The High Hats, and an all female gang The Lizzies. The costume department certainly earned their money on this movie, the clothes are wonderful, and some of the dialogue has now passed into teenage folklore, “can you dig it”. Everyone seems perfectly cast, but special mention goes to Michael Beck, as the leader of The Warriors, Swann. When recently interviewed about his role in the film, he said that The Warriors absolutely made his career. He then went on to say, that the following year, Xanadu, the movie he made with Olivia Newton John and Gene Kelly, promptly killed it again. Easy come, easy go i guess.
This is another of those movies, like Quadrophenia, that crosses generational boundaries. It was made way back in 1979, but i’m constantly surprised at how many younger people quote this movie as being a firm favourite with them, even though many of them weren’t around when it was released. Testament indeed to a film that continues to entertain today, as it did over 40 years ago.
To sum up, i’ve seen The Warriors so many times i’ve lost count, and i’m sure i’ll continue to watch it at least twice a year. It’s perfect for late Saturday night viewing, after the pub, and i’m fairly sure i’ll never tire of it.