The Warriors (1979) – Walter Hill

Set in an indefinable point sometime in the Near Future (when 70s fashions come back in style), Walter Hill’s classic The Warriors is the title up for review on the What Else to Watch list following my screening of Rebel Without a Cause for DK Canada’s The Movie Book.

Micheal Beck and James Remar play the would-be new leaders of a gang fighting its way home to Coney Island.

The gangs of New York are summoned to a meeting where a charismatic leader, Cyrus (Roger Hill) promotes the idea of working together, a formidable measure of peace as the gangs work together. Unfortunately, he is assassinated during the meet, and the Warriors are falsely accused.

Now they have to find their way back home, eluding the gangs of the city, while Swan (Beck) and Ajax (Remar) butt heads over who is running the gang now, and what their course of action should be.

It’s a fast moving tale that sees a streetwise girl, Mercy (Deborah Van Valkenburgh) who has plans and desires of her own, get mixed up with our heroes even as Luther (David Patrick Kelly) who was involved in Cyrus’ death tries to stop them himself.

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As their numbers are whittled down by cops and rival gangs, we join them on this slick adventure that plays as a modern urban myth. Hill has a great way with pacing that brings Sol Yurick’s novel to life.

The film hasn’t aged (but for the fashions) and still entertains today. Hill keeps the film moving as fast as a rollercoaster on Coney Island, and his characters take their chances as they desperately try to make it home.

Gone are all thoughts of proving their innocence, though the truth does come out. It’s just a sheer adrenaline race home in the dark. The comic book panel work recalls stories of yesteryear, and for some reason I was put more in mind of Eerie than of any superhero funnybook.

The cast are fairly singular in their dimensions and their portrayals, allowing the viewers to project on to them, and despite being a rough and tough gang, that has obviously done some pretty horrible things (Swan’s suggestion to Mercy at least implies it) they come across as fairly likeable characters.

And David Patrick Kelly walked away from this film typecast (for the most part) as the psychopathic Luther, and his chant “Warriors, come out to play,” has become as iconic as the film itself.

This one is a winner, and a great suggestion from DK Books’ The Movie Book, pick one up yourself, and find something amazing to watch tonight!

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