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Film Review: The Warriors (1979)

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A prominent New York City gang leader named Cyrus (Roger Hill) wants to wage an all-out battle against the police, and as part of his strategy he calls upon Gotham’s gangs to set aside their turf wars and come together at a summit. At the meeting, a rival leader kills Cyrus, but a Coney Island gang called the Warriors is wrongly blamed for Cyrus’ death. Before you know it, the cops and every gangbanger in town is hot on the Warriors’ trail.


“Warriors come out to play”…… From the last scene high on tension and overcoming a night of violence to the very first, setting the tone for gang violence and gathering, “The Warriors” still to this day lives as the ultimate NY gang film. Quite a change of pace for actor Michael Beck who later went on to play romantic roles such as Xanadu. The timing of the film was right and still to this day is considered “the” cult classic of gang warfare.

What is it that makes this film so special? On one hand we have a a group known as “The Warriors” who were framed for the murder of Cyrus (Roger Hill), leader of the most powerful of NY city gangs, the Riffs. On the other, we have a journey that’s filled with a variety of characters and gang personalities.

All the makings of an urban action film that could easily be compared to the fictional journey of say “Clash of the Titans” or “Jason and the Argonauts”. Warriors is a classic story of man vs beasts. In this case, The beasts are the cities notorious gang members out to do in the one who killed Cyrus. “The Warriors” also features early appearances of noted actors James Remar who plays Ajax and David Patrick Kelly who plays Luther the leader of the outfit called “The Rogues”. David Patrick Kelly went on to become instantly recognizable in bad guy roles such as “Dreamscape”, “The Crow” and “Wild at Heart”

As the film begins, we get plenty of build up on the event going down and the cities urban gathering. Cyrus, who many call the “one and only” has called all the gangs together to meet. The terms are that 9 delegates from each gang may attend without weapons. The event is set in the Bronx gathering the elite gangs to hear from the leader of the Riffs. “Can you count suckers” “The future is ours”, “Can you dig it”, stand as classic lines that are as much a part of the film as it’s performance. We soon find the meeting was orchestrated to form a truce among gangs in which to unite and rule as a single entity.

This plan though goes to hell when “Luther” from the Rogues shoots Cyrus – (he explains “I just like to do things like that”) and then frames “The Warriors” as the shooters.

From this point it’s an action filled adventure that tracks “The Warriors” as they try and return to their home of Coney Island. Led by Swan (Michael Beck) they bop there way from sector to sector. Ajax (James Remar) sets a memorable role as a dynamic member of the gang who loves violence and the thrill of it all.

A local radio DJ sets the word on the street sent directly from the “Riffs” that the Warriors have got a hit on them to be brought back dead or alive .The journey home works in a similar fashion as “Snake Plissken” making his way through future New York. The gang encounters a range of gangs who vary in types, themes and dispositions. They also manage to pick up Deborah Van Valkenburgh who plays the role of Mercy and tags along for the adventure. Deborah had a nice TV run on the show “Too Close for Comfort” back in the 80’s.

“The Warriors” was brilliantly directed by Walter Hill who went on to direct popular films such as “48 Hours”, “Crossroads” and a variety of other genre films.

The original story is based on a novel written by Sol Yurick with screenplay writing going to David Shaber & Walter Hill. Looking into trivia information, it is also revealed that the name “Ajax” came from a greek warrior, filming of the “Orphans” segment was interrupted by a police chase, 1,000 extras were used at the big meeting…….many coming from Riverside Drive Park and The Baseball Furies were created due to Walter Hill’s love of baseball and the music group Kiss.

The great “come out and play” line was actually improvised by David Patrick Kelly based on an intimidating neighbor of his. The television version started with a day shoot at Coney Island with Cleon and his girlfriend (played by Pamela Poitier). The producers cut this scene stating that the only day scene should be at the end of the film after a night of horror. Robert De Niro was asked to be Cowboy, but he passed on it.

Now here is something that most folks don’t know. The gangs that were listed in the script range into quite a numbers, but only a few of them were actually shown. The original list goes as listed:

The Alleycats, – The Amsterdam All-Stars, – The Baseball Furies, – The Black Hands, – The Blackjacks, – The Big Trains, – The Boppers, – The Boyle Avenue Runners, – The Charlemagnes, – The Colt 45’s, – The Dealers, – The Delaney Rovers, – The Dingos, – The E Street Shufflers, – The Easy Aces, – The Electric Eliminators, – The Eighth Avenue Apaches, – The Fastballs, – The Fifth Street Bombers, – The Filmores, – The Firetasters, – The Five Points, – The Gerrards, – The Gladiators, – The Go Hards, – The Gun Hill Dancers, – The Gramercy Riffs, – The High Hats, – The High Rollers, – The Homeboys, – The Hoplites, – The Howitzers, – The Huks, – The Hurricanes, – The Imps, – The Jesters, – The Jones Street Boys, – The Judas Bunch, – The Jupiters, – The Knockdowns, – The Knuckles, – The Lizzies, – The Locos, – The Magicians, – The Meatpackers, – The Mongols, – The Moonrunners, – The Napoleons, – The Nickel Steaks, – The Nightriders, – The Ninth Avenue Razors, – The Orphans, – The Panzers, – The Phillies, – The Plainsmen, – The Punks, – The Queen’s Bridge Mutilators, – The Real Boys, – The Red Hook Shooters, – The Roadmasters, – The Rogues, – The Romans, – The Runaways, – The Saracens, – The Saratogas, – The Savage Huns, – The Shanghai Sultans, – The Southern Cross, – The Speedwagons, – The Sports, – The Stevedores, – The Stilletos, – The Stonebreakers, – The Terriers, – The Turks, – The Turnbull AC’s, – The Van Cortlandt Rangers, – The Warriors, – The Whispers, – The Xenophones, – The Xylophones, – The Yo-Yo’s, – The Youngbloods, – The Zodiacs, – The Zulus.

The amount of trivia information is actually quite elaborate and can be further read per this link at wikipedia. In any case there is alot of history around this film than you wqould have guessed.

In all “The Warriors” is a fantastic film and one of the most influential gang films ever created. Still to this day it sits firmly in it’s cult audience appeal.

The Warriors (1979)

One comment

  1. best film ever made great soundtracks very origanal


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