The Wanderers (1979)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Coming-of-Age, Juvenile Delinquency Film  |   Release Date - Jul 13, 1979 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 113 min.  |   Countries - United States  |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Mark Deming

Philip Kaufman's screen adaptation of Richard Price's novel superbly captures the lives of a group of Bronx teenagers trying to seem tougher than they are, just as America is about to lose its innocence. While often lumped with The Warriors, Boulevard Nights, and the other street-gang films that hit the screen in 1979, The Wanderers doesn't deal much with territorial violence among emotionally disadvantaged youth. "The Wanderers" rarely confront violence more serious than a schoolyard scuffle, and they don't carry guns. Instead, this movie is a well-remembered reminiscence of the trials of growing up, as the guys struggle with women and figure out what to do with their futures, without much help from their parents. Kaufman does a fine job of capturing the tough, nervy humor of Price's book, but two of the most powerful moments are original to the film, and they set the film's time period perfectly: Richie (Ken Wahl) watches in shock as the coverage of J.F.K.'s assassination plays on a TV in a department-store window, and later sees a skinny guy with curly hair and a reedy voice singing "The Times They Are A-Changin'" in a coffee house. With his "Wanderers" jacket and oily pompadour, Richie is laughably conspicuous among the self-conscious folkies, and he knows it, but he cannot know that his world will be a thing of the past in a year or two.