Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Warriors (Walter Hill, 1979)

A manly chill washes over me every time the iridescent grandeur of the Wonder Wheel, a Ferris wheel in the Coney Island section of Brooklyn, New York, appears onscreen in the first scene of The Warriors, Walter Hill's gritty tribute to urban mayhem and vest-wearing togetherness. There's a chill because I know I'm guaranteed for one sweet night of head busting and reluctant romance. The no-nonsense film grabs you from the get-go, introducing us to a virile plethora of street gangs as they're getting on the subway (public transit was one of the few affordable forms of gangster chic back in the '70s). The outfits of the gangs ranged from menacing (I'd cross the street if I saw the guys in camouflage coming my way) to the ridiculous (what were those mime motherfuckers thinking?). But the way the sequence was put together never fails in getting me jazzed for some unlawful, yet playful acts of physical violence. I mean, it just crackles with an energy that gets the audience pumped for the big rally up in the Bronx. The gangs (nine members each) are going up there to listen to a charismatic prophet named Cyrus (Roger Hill) speak about geopolitics and ask the surly throng if they can "dig it." Since we can't follow the adventures of every gang in attendance (I would have loved to have hitched a ride with those suave dandies in the purple sequined vests), we end up leeching onto The Warriors, an interracial gang from Coney Island whose look has a bit of a Native American vibe (leather vests, feathers, etc.) Now, I always wondered why The Warriors were hesitant to go to the rally, but I now realize that it must have had something to do with the immense distance between Coney and the Bronx. I know I wouldn't want go all that way (without weapons) just hear some messianic hoodlum give a speech. Anyway, there's a bit snafu at the rally, and before anyone can yell "He shot Cyrus!" the feisty boys from the place where Nathan sells hot dogs find themselves being hunted by every gang in the city. Each itching to waste their denim-covered asses.

The fun of The Warriors, for me, anyway, has always been the disjointed comradery between the respective gang members. These guys technically have no business being together (their distinct personalities always seem to be at odds with one another), but its this friction that makes their journey so compelling. It is also the reason I find myself rooting for them to kick the snot out of the other gangs. You see, normally I would root for the rival gangs to win (I'm a dick that way).

However, since the Warriors are so darn appealing, you know, with their cocksure bragging and rakish running technique, that I couldn't help but smirk when they lay a severe beat-down on the face-painting goofballs of the Baseball Furies, the second coolest, yet most strategically incompetent gang in the movie. (They all had baseball bats!)

It should be said, though, The Orphans, a lower-level outfit in green t-shirts, had a super-lame strategy as well. Sure, the Molotov cocktail was kinda unexpected, but come on guys, you had them outnumbered by, like, a lot. Oh, and I've always had a soft spot for Paul Greco's leader of The Orphans. Perfectly encapsulating the scourge that is male pride, the ease in which this squirrelly fella was manipulated pretty much summed up everything that is wrong with the world.

Stoic to the point of catatonia, Michael Beck (Xanadu) is the righteous glue that holds this tough potpourri together. Playing Swan, the take charge leader (war chief) of The Warriors, Mr. Beck oozes a restrained form of defiance. I liked the way he chose his battles in the film. You see, his main rival Ajax (a headstrong James Remar) would constantly disagree with his decisions ("I'm sick of this running crap"), but the choice to fight or run should always be considered carefully, and Swan made the right choice almost every time. The rest of the actors in Swan and Ajax' gang were varied in their memorableness. However, it was the demented work of David Patrick Kelly as the leader of the Rogues that caused me to high-five my inner psychopath. Every strange mannerism and enunciated word he uttered was rife with originality.

Even though she is called all sorts of unpleasant names (especially the one that rhymes with chore), I thought Deborah Van Valkenburgh (Streets of Fire) was enchanting as Mercy, a gutsy chick The Warriors hook up with during their southbound adventure. Sheathed a slightly purplish getup that was alluring (but not too showy), Deborah is awash with grit and sex appeal. So much so, that she somehow managed to unfurl the sleepy contents of Swan's impassive crotch. It must have been Deborah's beautiful mouth that awoke his slumbering cock, because it is one helluva gob.

Speaking of mouths, the bite Deborah inflicts on the shoulder of one the overall-wearing punks during the washroom brawl was just one of the many fantastic deployments of violence in that wonderfully brutal scene. A raucous throw-down that pretty much puts the first exclamation mark on the film (Kelly's bottle work and beach scream are the second and third). At any rate, this toilet-based brouhaha is one of the most visceral cinematic punch-ups I have ever witnessed.

video uploaded by Turbonegro666


  1. I have never sat through The Warriors in one sitting, but always watch a bit when I see it. I think it is really great in a "B-Movie" striving to be an "A-Movie" kinda way.

    I need to start carrying some empty beer bottles with me, as I am prone to spontaneous, and often inappropriate, "Waaaariors! Come out and Plaa-aaaay!"

    Is it just me, or does Deborah Van Valkenbourgh in the picture you posted not look like Rosario Dawson?

  2. You may only watch it tiny portions here and there, but the fact that you're prone to quoting it is quite the tribute to its overall awesomeness.

    Yeah, Deborah V.V. is like a Dutch Rosario Dawson. Oh, and it's not just you. I've heard others compare the two actresses.

  3. Well, Yum squared, d. and I are leaving tomorrow, so we'll be on a big boat with no internet. Happy Festivus and Boxing Day!

  4. A Happy Festivus and Boxing Day (hee hee) to you and d., too.

    No internet? Ahhh! Seriously, have a good time.

    I'll probably be shoveling snow for next two weeks. :)

    Oh, and I hope the in-boat movie isn't X-File-related.