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USA 1979
Directed by
Walter Hill
97 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

The Warriors

Although this low budget film was a surprise box office hit, with its Clockwork Orange-influenced themed costume design and its reliance on snarling as an index of toughness by today’s standards it looks almost comical in its depiction of street gang culture. In its day however, it was seen more realistically, particularly by its teen and post-adolescent audience who identified with the cleverly choreographed tribal heroics with the kind naive enthusiasm for which modern-day blockbusters must pine (There were many reports of gang-like violence near theatres showing the film and many demands that it be banned),

Set in a dystopian near future it tells the story of a street gang, The Warriors, who travel on the subway from Coney Island to Brooklyn to attend a city-wide gang meet convened by Cyrus (Roger Hill) the head of all the gangs. He is assassinated by the sociopath leader of The Rogues (David Patrick Kelly) who accuses the Warriors who must flee for their lives pursued by various gangs out for their blood.

Based on a novel by Sol Yurick which was in turn based on an ancient Greek work, "Anabasis" (cited in the opening sequence),somewhat ironically it makes one wish someone would remake it but revert it the original time setting because there is enough material here, dealing with issues of male “warrior” identity to sustain interest even in the fairly rudimentary narrative  This substance is in part what lifts the film above what otherwise might have been a standard issue exploitation film. This, and Hill’s direction which strikes some nice visual notes as he maintains a stylized approach to the proceedings that is underscored by periodic cartoon frame-like transitions in the story.

Although the lead character of the film, Swan, played by Michael Beck is charismatically handsome (he went on to star in Xanadu before disappearing into TV Land)  the stand out performance is from Kelly as the weazely killer. The scene in which he taunts The Warriors by clicking three soda bottles together and calling out: "Come out to play" deserves to be up there with De Niro's "you talkin' to me" as a classic moment .




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