Raphael Pour-Hashemi has reviewed the Region 2 release of The Warriors.
A blistering account of gang wars in the near future of New York City. Directed by Walter Hill, and featuring brilliant, nightmarish cinematography by Andrew Laszlo.
Set in the distant future (although never actually stating this in the film) The Warriors is a prophetic visual odyssey into the hells of urban future. Directed with severe angst by macho misogynist Walter Hill (the man associated with Southern Comfort and the Alien legacy), the film is pure comic book in its approach, and has since served to be a cult favourite amongst teenagers or sci-fi fans.
The city of New York during the day lives its normal life, but during the night has been divided into tribal zones by youthful street gangs that ferociously defend their own ‘turf’ as if it were their own country. These gangs have apparently formed after listening to the word of self-appointed preacher/guru-of-the-night Cyrus (Roger Hill), who has actively encouraged the gang movement and the turf ethics that are banded with it. Cyrus has now called all of the gangs together in one place, deep in the South Bronx to inform the gangs that the feared Gramercy Riffs plan to control the streets of New York. Cyrus suggests that if the gangs pooled their efforts they would outnumber the police of the city five-to-one, and this idea appeals to the gangs. Just as things look promising for Cyrus, the freakish leader of The Rogues – Luther (David Patrick Kelly) bizarrely assassinates him at the meeting, and quickly points the finger at Coney Island gang The Warriors. The police arrive on the scene quickly, and the gangs flee. However, word has quickly spread around the outraged gangs (and even graveyard shift radio stations) that The Warriors are responsible for Cyrus’ death, and the remainder of the film is devoted to The Warriors’ futile attempt to return to Coney Island despite being wanted by every gang across the city.
The film’s opening act has the potential to be the most chilling. Here is a set-up in which crazed fanatic Cyrus has almost effortlessly managed to build his own unstoppable army to take over New York. His assassination seems to be almost a cop-out by the material, as his ‘revolution’ in New York would have been an interesting story. Indeed, this cop-out is carried further by the fact that there are no political reasons for Luther assassinating Cyrus; he does it because ‘he likes doing things like that’. This lack of plotting is further corroborated by one of the lousiest scripts of the Nineteen Seventies. The dialogue is so bad it is laughable, and director Walter Hill clearly shows that he has absolutely no idea as to how teenagers should talk and sound.
Incidentally, feminists would have a field day with the film. Firstly, because every female character is used solely as a sexually starved woman in need of easy sex from any gang member that happens to come along. Secondly, because of the fact that in The Warriors women serve no purpose other than to be distracting devices for the male gangs, and in whatever form, this always results in trouble for the males.
Despite all of the poor points, Walter Hill is forgiven for delivering a frenetic actioner that is blistering in its pace, and unredeemable in its dark aesthetic quality. Forget dialogue, forget plotting, as the winners on screen in The Warriors are the action sequences and nightmarish cinematography by Andrew Laszlo, who paints New York as a teenage battleground using subways, street corners and parkways. Because of these factors, the film serves to be quite exciting, although the potential of the film is still unfulfilled, as The Warriors could have strove for better social comment and not been so preoccupied with appealing solely to a teen audience.
Presented in anamorphic 1.78:1 widescreen, the film exhibits harsh grain and fluctuating colour tones although in a twisted way this appears to help proceedings. The Warriors is a gritty, urban film, and the transfer, although not splendid by any means, certainly does the film justice. Ironically, the film only appears dated visually in the final daylight scenes.
Presented in the film’s original mono soundtrack, there is a good argument that the film deserves at least a stereo soundtrack, but what is on display with regards to audio quality is quite acceptable, with a thumping synthesizer soundtrack and low rumblings of industrial ache in the city.
Menu: A silent and static menu presented around the idea of a subway station wall, with a few promotional shots incorporated.
Packaging: The usual Paramount Widescreen Collection amaray packaging, complete with one page chapter listings contained inside.
Theatrical Trailer: A cool retro trailer from 1979 promoting The Warriors as an urban-future-punk action film, and you could argue that the film delivers easily on that count.
As a Clockwork Orange mutation or West Side Story without the music, The Warriors is excellent entertainment. It doesn’t deliver on its initial promise, and the dialogue is ropey in the worst tradition, and yet it still manages to maintain its cult status. The picture and sound qualities are mediocre but still aren’t detrimental to the film, with the only unfortunate point being the extras department. Only the trailer is provided, and there are certainly some deleted scenes from the film used for initial network TV screenings that remain unreleased on DVD, so on that front alone the DVD is a missed opportunity.
It’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for…
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