Review: "The Warriors" (1979)
Urban Dictionary (that paragon of information that Webster's won't touch) has 3 definitions for a cult classic:
- Something that's really hip with a select group of people.
- A movie that is weird as fuck.
- A popular piece of work, generally a movie, which has gained a large following. This following has most likely been around for at least a few years, except for cases of an "instant cult classic", in which a movie gains instant fame which remains for decades to come.
It's the last definition that I like the best, especially the part about an instant cult classic. There's a term that's tailor made for Walter Hill's (48 Hours, Another 48 Hours) masterpiece about a street gang wrongly accused of the murder of another gang's leader trying to make it from the Bronx all the way back to their turf in Coney Island.
When this movie hit theaters in '79 it was quite controversial for supposedly inciting gang violence in big cities. It is true that gangs come out together to see it in large numbers....you can guess the rest. This probably seems a little silly to most folks. Virtually everyone is familiar with the famous lines in the film ("CAN YOU DIG IT??!!" and "Warriors!! Come out and play-ay!!") as well as the outlandish gangs, like the baseball bat wielding Baseball Furies (whose leader looks oddly like Paul Stanley from KISS) and the mulitracial skinheads of the Turnbull AC. If you've never really sat down and absorbed the whole thing then you're definitely judging a book by it's cover.
This movie is dangerous. It's seedy, dark, grimy, & full of menace. Those empty New York streets and hideously graffitied subway cars set the stage for surprisingly well staged violence. When they rumble, buddy, they really fucking rumble. Cyrus' speech at the opening is kind of chilling in its message: we outnumber the police and all we have to do is truce and work together. That crowd of wildly varied gangs united as one is meant to send chills down the spine, and it works.
The young cast brought a lot of unknowns, and most of them remain so to this day. The exceptions are James Remar (Dexter, Tales From the Darkside: The Movie, 48 Hours) as Ajax and Michael Beck (Xanadu) as "War Chief" Swan. The soundtrack gave us the Joe Walsh classic "In the City" over the closing credits. It's downright poignant, that closing scene on the beach.
This movie just has so much damn heart. I know there is a remake on the way, and I have certainly had my say about the subject of remakes in general in a previous blog. In general I've come to grips with remakes, but I just don't see how you can do this one. It's too unique, like a genetic mutation that produces a green flamingo.
I'll confess that I hadn't actually sat and watched this movie since I was about 8 or 9 years old, so it was essentially brand new to me. I'm so glad I did (AND Cindy had never seen it at all). If you have that in common with my wife then you need to rectify that shit. You'll be glad you did.