The Warriors (1979)

I’m not sure why I’ve been watching so many movies from the 60s and 70s lately but it has provided a convenient excuse to see some cult classics from that era. I had vaguely been aware of The Warriors ever since they made that PS2 game a decade ago, but as it tends to be the case with me, it was only very recently that I was inspired to actually give it a try.

The longevity of the movie’s popularity and status as a cult classic turns out to be more than well earned. Over three decades later, it still is a gripping movie with a good cast and thrilling premise. The story itself is alarmingly  simplistic, but the simplicity of the core plot only helps to sell the central survival theme of the story: there is more than enough pathos in the Warriors trying to get back to their turf in Coney Island while all the gangs in the entire city are out for their heads to make you invested to the story without attempting to insert any type of social commentary or deeper character work into the mix that would just work as a distraction to the primal survival of the fittest tale. The story moves forward with an acceptable speed and the movie uses some clever little devices to spice up the journey, such the few radio DJ segments where the gangs are given coded instructions regarding the hunt for the Warriors through the airwaves, that help to build the idea that the danger is around every corner without needing to slow down and ease on the pressure when showing how the net slowly circles around the Warriors. Even when you have small detours like three of the gang being lured into a party after the Warriors have been split up, it doesn’t slow down the movie, instead it feels like an appropriate breather before the adrenaline starts pumping again at high speeds when the trap is sprung and the boys are again on the run from the hostile gangs, fleeing for their lives.

Speaking of the fictional gangs, they proved out to be easily the best thing about the entire movie. You are introduced them at the very beginning through the excellent extended opening montage showcasing the different gang delegations making their way to the meet up at the park, and it very effortlessly works as a good world building mechanism that foreshadows the fact of just how big of an opposition the Warriors face when they realize the temporary truce allowing them to move through the city is no longer valid. The designs for the gangs are also very brilliant. Everyone from the macho oozing Warriors with their leather vests over bare chests dress code to the second string nobodies like the Orphans who only wear matching jeans and t-shirts, they all share a wonderfully quirky logic to their gang uniform colors and design. Nothing really tops the  Baseball Furies, who dress up in baseball uniforms with painted faces as warpaint, though the one gang that look wear mime make up comes pretty close thanks how utterly bizarre their gang look is.

I do have one gripe: the final showdown against the Rogues isn’t as big and climactic confrontation I was half hoping it would be. They do get their comeuppance but after spending the entire movie building up their frame up of the Warriors as the responsible party for the shooting, it does end up being  bit disappointing. Still, in-story it makes sense and it is better than just ending with the Warriors reaching home and going their separate ways.

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