A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 96 – The Warriors

The Warriors – June 3rd, 2010


Can you believe Andy hadn’t seen this? He hasn’t seen this! He hasn’t seen this epic of iconic filmmaking. I can’t believe it. I’ve seen it all through once before and bits and pieces so many times I don’t know if I could count them. It’s one of those movies I think I originally saw during one of my nocturnal episodes, staying up until the sun rose and watching anything that wasn’t an infomercial. And that’s really the perfect time to watch this. The entire movie takes place over the course of a single night, from nightfall to daybreak. It’s not complicated.

On one level, this reminds me of Strange Days. Not enough for me to say Strange Days was consciously borrowing from it, but there’s a thread there. This movie doesn’t have the twists and turns and conspiracies that Strange Days does, but it does involve the death of a charismatic leader, one who might well have managed to unite the disenfranchised youth of the city in a way that would have caused trouble for the establishment. Of course, in Strange Days, things are all confused and you don’t know who did what and when and who’s involved and who knows what. Here, the only question you might have at the outset is whether Cyrus, the charismatic leader, was killed for a larger reason or not. Given that he was trying to unite the gangs and overwhelm the police and take over the city, it would be understandable if he’d been killed by a plant, or a gang that had a reason for liking the status quo. But no. By the end of the movie you find out that ultimately he was killed because the guy who killed him likes stirring shit.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. The movie starts with a big gathering of gangs from all around New York. They’re getting together, each gang sending nine representatives, to hear one man speak. Cyrus, the leader of one of the biggest and best gangs in the city, has a message of unity, getting all the gangs together to present a force that would be unrivaled by the police or anyone else. After his big motivational speech he’s shot and killed by Luther, the leader of the Rogues. Luther is definitely a villain for the sake of being a villain. He shoots Cyrus and pins it on the Warriors, setting the whole city’s worth of gangs on them. And so the Warriors have to get back to their home turf. They’re in small numbers. They’re unarmed. And they’re moving through a city that’s actively looking for them. A DJ who’s in on the gang scene updates everyone on where the Warriors are. The Rogues are following them, hoping to catch them. The Riffs, Cyrus’ gang, are after them. Everyone’s after them.

And so it’s a chase movie. The Warriors go from point to point, meeting and fighting different gangs as they go. The gangs are all themed in ways that make me chuckle now, but I can see what they were going for. Every gang has a costume and a gimmick. The best of the bunch are the Baseball Furies, a gang that wears baseball uniforms and brightly colored face paint and carries baseball bats as weapons. But there are also the Punks, the Lizzies (an all female gang), the Orphans, the Turnbull ACs, and of course the Rogues and the Riffs. Along the way the Warriors meet up with Mercy, a woman who’s implied to be a prostitute who’s been hanging around with the Orphans. She splits from them to follow the Warriors, eventually deciding to stick with them. Mercy’s story, and her arc with Swan (the “war chief” of the Warriors and the male lead of the movie) are actually an interesting little subplot.

Threaded in through the chase is also the whole idea of the disenfranchised youth of New York. Kids and young adults who have little to nothing except their pride and their ties to each other. And as Cyrus says it, they could be powerful if they could just work together. They could have it all. Later, as one of the Warriors (Snow) says, they could steal whatever they wanted, if they could only figure out what was worth stealing. And in with that is Mercy, who has a fantastic scene and speech in a subway tunnel with Snow. He insults her lifestyle, saying he doesn’t respect her. She defends herself by saying she’s seen what life’s got in store for her and basically, it sucks, so she’s going to do what she wants now, while she can. And after that, later, when he’s had some time, Swan apologizes. He lets her stick with them. She’s even there at the end in the final confrontation with the Rogues, broken bottle in hand. She becomes part of the gang. Another fantastic scene on this theme is in the train near the end, when the remaining Warriors are heading home and they’re battered and bruised and cut up and dirty. And two couples get on the train. They’re all dressed up, heading home after a party, probably a prom or other formal dance. And they see the Warriors, including Mercy, and Mercy and Swan look at them, and there’s this recognition there. That there are miles and miles between them. Mercy goes to try and fix her hair and Swan stops her. That one moment is great to me. His message there is clear: Don’t be ashamed of who you are or what you’ve done. Don’t try to fix anything. There’s nothing wrong. Sure, they’re dirty and gritty and bloody, but they earned every scar and bruise.

The whole movie feels dirty and dark and like it’s got rust and sand and grit worked in under its fingernails. The atmosphere is fantastic and the acting, while not award-winning, feels sincere to me. By the time the Warriors get to their home turf and confront the Rogues on the beach at Coney Island, it’s morning, and they’re out of the city. It feels totally different, and that’s fitting. There’s still danger, but it’s of a completely different kind than the nighttime chase they’ve been through. We learn that Luther shot Cyrus not for some complicated reason, but because he’s fucking crazy, and itching for trouble. And our heroes, damaged as they are, end up victorious.

My only complaint about this movie is about the special edition. Apparently, in the original conception of the movie, the scene-to-scene transitions were supposed to involve comic book panels taking you from one to the next. And the whole episodic feel to the film really does support the comic book format. In this issue the Warriors face off with the mysterious and unknown Orphans! In the next issue the cops find the Warriors in the subway! The problem was, they ran out of money and couldn’t do it. So for the special edition they put in the comic book panels. My problem with that is that it’s obviously a computer generated effect, taking a still from the end of one scene, running it through a filter to make it a very smooth looking comic book page, and then moving to a still from the beginning of the next scene and fading back into the action from the same filter. It’s too smooth. The colors are clear and clean and the lines are smooth. It’s nothing at all like an actual comic book from 1979. It’s not like comic books from today. It’s cartoonish, almost. It’s missing the grit and the dirt and the four color ink illustrations I’d expect. It’s a pity, because it’s a good concept and the execution just didn’t pan out.

All in all, however, I still love this movie. Sure, it’s simple and the script is minimal and the actors were all unknowns, but it’s got heart and it’s got dirt and it’s got some fantastic moments that make it well worth watching.


June 4, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , | Leave a comment

The Warriors

June 4, 2010

The Warriors

“Sometime in the future” it is the 1970s again. This represents yet another movie from our collection that I’ve never seen before. Mostly because I’ve never been all that interested, but it’s supposed to be this sort of camp classic, so when I had a chance to pick it up for a couple bucks I couldn’t resist.

At least the plot is simple to sum up. When the charismatic leader Cyrus calls for a truce between all the themed street gangs of New York so they can take over the city he is assassinated, and the Warriors are framed for it. So they have to run and fight their way from the Bronx back home to Coney Island. I think that pretty much sums it up. A retelling of the Odyssey set in future 1970s New York.

Along the way they have to get past gangs, pull together, and fight. Mostly fight. There’s a lot of running and fighting and sweaty shirtless guys. They also pick up a strange hanger on in the enigmatic Mercy – a moll from a rival gang who is desperate for something, but it isn’t clear just what. Maybe she wants the adventure, or maybe she’s just a trouble maker.

Apparently the social hierarchy among gangs in this future 1970s is based on the complexity and uniformity of their gang wardrobe. The so-pathetic-they-aren’t-even-invited-to-the-pow-wow Orphans just have green t-shirts with their name sadly stenciled on the back. But there are plenty of better organized “boppers” on the streets. Mimes and purple pimps and “Baseball Furies.” (They have Yankees uniforms and face paint. Scary!) The Warriors all have very cool custom made leather vests. So the other gangs should know that they’re in for a rough time.

Of course the toughest and most organized gang in the whole city (with the best uniforms) are the police. They’re more a force to be dreaded than all the other gangs put together.

As I watch this now I kind of wish I had some notion of the geography of New York. The movie makes it clear that it’s a really long way – but I have no idea how far. Does the journey portrayed in the film make any kind of sense? Probably not, but I have no way of knowing.

Oh, and the film has a hidden message in support of literacy! It’s a kind of running gag that the Warriors can’t read the subway maps. Maybe if they spent more time in school and less time making trouble it would be easier for them to find their way home.

In the end it’s a simple movie but well executed. It’s about badasses being badassed. My only disappointment is that Mercy didn’t get a Warrior vest of her own.

June 4, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , | Leave a comment