THE WARRIORS (1979)
“Warriorrrsss…come out and playee-yayyyyyyy
” If you’ve seen Walter Hill’s 1979 cult-classic The Warriors, it’s a given that you’ve mimicked Luther’s (David Patrick Kelley) infamous battle-cry. Extra bonus points if you’ve inserted 3 beer bottles on your fingers and clinked the bottles whilst loudly chanting. This stunt is especially effective if you’d like to get rid of unwanted party guests. You know, the ones who stay wayyyyy too late and are boring you out of your skull. If you attain the insane fever-pitched banshee yelps like Luther did and keep maniacally clinking those bottles, I guarantee you’ll clear your house out. And if by some chance, the boring party-guests are too drunk and stupid to be frightened by the macabre nature of this routine and they insist on spending the night, switch to Plan B: tie them to a chair, douse them in gasoline, put on your Steeler’s Wheel’s album and invite Michael Madsen over. That’ll teach em. But I digress…..
The Warriors was released to an avalanche of negative publicity in 1979 with reports of real-life gangbanging erupting in cinemas across the nation. While there is brawling and bashing a-plenty, the film is utterly benign in comparison to some of the more violent movies of today. The Warriors are UNARMED, for fook’s sake. What they lack in weaponry, however, the Warriors more than make up for in style, resourcefulness, mad ass-kicking skills and all-around coolness. They are 9 bare-chested, leather-vest wearing, wee sexy Coney Island bastards who, along with thousands of gang members from the 5 boroughs of NYC, attend a clandestine gang convention in the Bronx. With a temporary truce declared, the gangs gather to listen to the fiery rhetoric of prominent Grammercy Riffs gang leader, Cyrus (Roger Hill) who wants to unite all the gangs to march as one against the whole city. “Can…You…Dig..It?”
Luther, a psychotic and very, very excitable member of the rival Rogues, has another plan in mind for Cyrus. He shoots him dead. In the ensuing chaos, Luther hysterically points and accuses Warriors leader, Cleon (Dorsey Wright), of assassinating Cyrus. Unfortunately, Luther’s bait and switch stunt works. The truce is off and the safety of the Warriors' Coney Island home turf is several long and danger-filled subway-train rides away. Cleon falls prey to the police in the ensuing melee and the 8 remaining Warriors must “bop
” their way back home without him. The loss of Cleon sets up the very wise and sensitive Warrior, Swan (Michael Beck), to take over leadership responsibilities. Of course, it doesn't hurt that chicks dig him both in the audience and on-screen. Chick-magnetism aside, Swan must endure the requisite power struggle between he and the trigger-tempered, macho, misogynistic Ajax (James Remar). The power struggle is very brief, however, because The Warriors have incurred the wrath of every street hood and gang member in the city and have to get the heck outta Dodge (or the Bronx as it were). Unarmed (I repeat…UNARMED!) and wrongly accused of a crime they didn’t commit, the Warriors continue to “bop
” their way from the Bronx all the way back to their Coney Island home turf, while being endlessly pursued by rival gang members. The gangs are fueled by the implied superiority of Cyrus’s gang, the Grammercy Riffs (shout it: RIFFS!
), who appear to have 10,000 members, which makes me wonder why THEY couldn’t spare a little manpower to hunt down the measly EIGHT Coney Island gangbangers. Apparently they’re all about taking credit for the end result...Dude,where’s your WORK ETHIC??
Also on the Grammercy Riffs payroll, is the radio “DJ” (Lynne Thigpen). Her funkified low voice and luscious lips (the luscious lips being the only thing the audience ever sees of the DJ) are integral to the look and pace of the storyline as she lobs her sexy, sultry taunts at the Warriors via her radio mic. “Be lookin' good, Warriors. All the way back to Coney. You hear me babies? Good
”. Too bad the Warriors don’t have radios. DOH. The DJ also spins appropriate songs (Nowhere to Run) and provides simmering news updates after each gang is successfully ass-kicked or outwitted (or both) by our Coney Island Warriors. I say “our” because you root for the Warriors like your favorite sports team, especially when they are outnumbered, which is always. They take on every gang whose path they cross because they HAVE to, or in the case of Ajax, because he wants to. To Ajax, not fighting is equivalent to “turning faggot”. That his “demise” comes courtesy of a *gasp* FEMALE is beautiful irony. It should come as no surprise that James Remar went on to be typecast for years as a foul-tempered bad guy.
The gangs are very eclectic, (there’s even a nod to the infamous Droogs, say AMEN!), ranging from the Turnbull AC’s (not sure what AC is the acronym for), to the baseball bat-toting Baseball Furies to the all-female Lizzies (the chicks are PACKED..the chicks are PACKED…),
to the preppy big-necked overall-wearing rollerbladers (who knew the art of brawling on rollerskates could look so effortless? Most of us fall down just standing on rollerskates…) to my personal favorite – The Orphans. Hapless losers with a Capital “L” plastered on all their gang-wannabe foreheads, these rag-tag doofuses are so low on the gang food chain that they didn’t even hear about the major gang event in the Bronx, they have no stylin gang “colors”, and worst of all, they’re CUCKOLDED by the neighborhood tart, Mercy (Deborah Van Valkenburgh). Mercy relentlessly baits and berates the Orphans after they decide to peacefully let the Warriors just “boogie on through” their turf. When the Warriors refuse to take off their leather vests (DAMN…I was so hoping they would…*droooool*..), the Orphans lamely attempt and fail miserably at blocking our boys from passing through. A single Molotov cocktail sends the Orphans packing. I think a flaming Pina Colada would have sent these dorks running. David Schwimmer (obviously in his salad-days) plays the whiny-assed, pathetic Orphans leader (back when David had a “slow” eye). Fortunately David put this whiny-assed character behind him so he could grow as an actor and eventually play eternally whiny-assed, pathetic Ross on Friends. For 1 million an episode no less. Schwimmer was able to pay for corrective eye surgery with his new-found wealth and is now branching out into directing, which apparently is a birthright of all sitcom actors. Bleccch. OK, the leader of the Orphans really isn’t David Schwimmer, it’s some lesser known chain-snatchin-mariachi-motherfucker-Schwimmer-lookalike named Paul Greco who happens to have a gimpy eye. I just needed to vent on Schwimmer because he’s so bloody annoying. I occasionally go off on tangents, in case noone has noticed.
The final gang showdown takes place on Coney Island, when the exhausted Warriors finally arrive home at the crack of dawn (with skanky Mercy in tow...she somehow manages to get Swan under a romantic spell..) and the realization hits them, as it does the audience “We fought all night to get back HERE
?” Yeah, tell me about it. Coney freakin Island. Paradise it ain’t. However, the Grammercy Riffs finally decide to get off their lazy duffs and exact some medieval revenge on the pussified Luther. And our Warriors? Well, their destination may not be paradise, but the journey they take us on and the adventures they encounter to get us there, provide for some wickedly entertaining and enjoyable movie viewing. The movie may look dated now, but The Warriors and New York City will always rule. Dig that.