The Warriors (1979)

Genres - Action  |   Sub-Genres - Action Thriller, Urban Drama  |   Run Time - 94 min.  |   Countries - USA  |   MPAA Rating - R
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"Warriors come out and play," screeches a rival unnamed gang, and do they ever. This violent, dark Walter Hill picture is set in the pre-Giuliani idea of a New York that is ravaged and run by highly stylized street gangs. Each faction has not only their owned neighborhood, but also their own costumes and weapons of choice: the baseball bat wielding Furies, the tough girl gang the Lizzies, and the evil hoodlums who murder the gang guru Cyrus (Roger Hill) while he is trying to unite all the factions of N.Y.C. They then accessed the Warriors, who, in turn, must run from the murder site in a Bronx park all the way to Coney Island with every gang in town out for blood to avenge their fallen leader. The N.Y.C. subway system, which was shot on-location, becomes the yellow brick road that must be followed by the Warriors to get home, and a havoc-ridden road it is. Hill plays on the idea that nowhere is more dangerous than an empty New York City subway train at night, making the movie truly scary. Although at times this film may seem dated, it serves as a document of what could have been and holds up much better than the similar-looking Escape From New York. For one, shooting on-location and not using cardboard cutouts of Gotham makes all the difference in the world. Also, the premise of a gang-riddled city plays as a more realistic idea and sparks legitimate fears of urban life. Hill is also playing with several ideas here that will later be more fully realized in his future films, elevating the picture above being just a B-movie. The stark final showdown on an empty beach at dawn feels like the climax of a Western, a genre that Hill will visit many times in his career. Equally effective is the omniscient radio personality that tracks and broadcasts the progress of the Warriors. All these elements, plus the creepy cinematography and artful lighting, keep the film interesting to comtemporary audiences. But it can also been seen as a window into '70s camp. The costumes, music, and look of the actors are well preserved in this time capsule. But the best part is the dialogue, for after watching The Warriors, you will find yourself raising your hands in the air and shouting, "Can You Dig It!" You will indeed.