This is a personal favorite of mine, a classic action film that leaves out the blood and gore and focuses on good old-fashioned, bloody-knuckles street fighting.
The Warriors is director Walter Hill’s adaptation of a 1965 cult novel about New York’s street gangs. He turns the story into a colorful tale of courage and heroism, a story of greatness in the gutters of New York.
The Warriors, a fearless gang repping Coney Island, is invited to a gang summit hosted by Cyrus (Roger Hill), the leader of the Riffs, the biggest gang in New York. Every gang in New York, without their guns and weapons, are at the summit, where the visionary Cyrus gives an empowering speech telling the gang members that if they work together they can overpower all the police in the city and take over.
Unfortunately, despite his dream of change, a gunshot is fired and Cyrus collapses.
At this same moment siren lights turn on, and swarms of cops show up. Panic ensues and Luther, a member of the Rogues who shot and killed Cyrus, puts the blame on the innocent Coney boys. He yells out that he saw the Warriors shoot Cyrus, and the Riffs immediately put them on the top of their hitlist.
While the leader of the Warriors gets pummeled at all angles from Cyrus’ fellow gang members and is left for dead, the rest of the Warriors meet up in an old grave- yard. Who should lead? Is the truce Cyrus discussed at the conference still relevant? How will they get back home? Their new leader, Swan (Michael Black), takes control and leads them to the train station. This is where their journey begins: they must make it back to Coney weapon-less, with every bloodthirsty gang in New York after them.
These aren’t your average street gangs, either. There are the rollerblading, face painting, baseball-bat-wielding Punks. There are the low-level Orphans, the seductive but rugged Lizzies, the chain-swinging Turnbull ACs, and more. The flashy and sometimes unnecessarily strange wardrobes of each gang makes The Warriors fun to watch, and adds an eerie and comic-book-like element to the film.
Due to a lack of firepower, the fight scenes are intense — gang members have to get creative and MacGyver-up weapons out of pieces of wood, or concoct Molotov cocktails. These scenes are a step up from the old Batman “Boom,” “Kapow!” ones, and are still badass despite the limited production abilities: people are thrown into oncoming trains, bats are smashed on heads, and knives are thrown.
It’s a mix of artistic settings and costumes, fast-paced action and dialogue, and a new take on the underdog story. Well, it was new back in 1979 when it came out. But don’t let that throw you off. It still has some memorable lines and makes you want to go out and join a street gang — although you wouldn’t look too gangster wearing feathers and red leather like the Warriors (although it did seem to work back then).
Drama, action, and street fights tell the tale of the lonely Coney boys with a long, perilous journey ahead of them. Will they ever make it back to the big Coney? Watch and find out.
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