- Movie Rating -

The Warriors (1979); ★1/2

| February 9, 1979

Why didn’t they just steal a car?

This is a question that plagues me about The Warriors, Walter Hill’s ultra-violent cult-classic about a group of New York City gang members who are framed for the assassination of a rival gang leader and have to get all the way across the city back to their home turf.

Maybe there is a simple explanation for this (don’t email me).  Maybe the simple answer is that if they stole a car, then they would be able to get across town and the movie would be over.  So, maybe I should stop asking obvious questions and just go with it.  Again, don’t email me about this.

I have friends who are rabid fans of this movie, who talk about it like it is the stuff of great literature.  I have also seen the movie, which I find unconvincing, unpleasant and makes little to no sense (see above).  And yet . . . and yet, when I sat down to watch it again last night, I couldn’t turn it off.  I was absolutely mesmerized by the whole thing.

Maybe this is the way we want gang life to be.  The film takes place in a fantasy world in which the streets of New York at night belong to roving gangs, lawless cops, and on occasion an innocent bystander.  The “story” follows a gang based in Coney Island called The Warriors who gather in Manhattan for a message dolled out by Cyrus, an underworld leader who (get this) has visions of all gang joining to together one day to take over New York in, I guess, sort of a street gang U.N. (did I mention this is a fantasy world?)  But a looney among the crowd (David Patrick Kelly) doesn’t like this idea, kills Cyrus and puts the blame on The Warriors.

Again, what follows is the adventures of the gang trekking back across the city to their home turf while having run-ins with a variety of different gang members, cops, you name it, the scariest being The Furies, a group who sports face paint, Yankee’s uniforms and baseball bats.  Functionally, it is ridiculous.  Visually, it’s quite effective.

The problem comes when Hill tries to build characters, or at least tries to inject tension among the gang itself, chiefly between Michael Beck’s Swan and James Remar’s Ajax (oh! The names!) who have differing approaches to this problem.  Swan wants to use logic in dodging the various gang interactions.  Ajax just wants to bust a few heads.

You can’t believe this movie for one solitary moment.  The actors look more like dancers than gang members and you expect many of these fights to take place on Broadway rather than down on the corner.  It’s silly, stupid, insipid and ridiculous, yet again, I have to admit that I was fully with this movie from beginning to end.  Why?  I can’t really say.  The Warriors is the worst movie that ever had me totally captivated.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1979) View IMDB Filed in: Action
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