The Warriors (1979)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 8/3/19
Director: Walter Hill
Cast: David Beck, James Remar, Deborah Van Valkenburgh, David Patrick Kelly

"Can you dig it?"

A powerful gang leader calls a meeting and a truce with representatives from dozens of New York gangs. His goal is to unite the gangs so that they can overpower the police and take over the streets. Unfortunately, the rally is cut short when someone shoots him and members of The Warriors are wrongly blamed for the incident. Unarmed and twenty-six miles from their home turf of Coney Island, The Warriors make a desperate run for survival as the police and every gang in New York closes in on them.

It's a raw, gritty, and dirty film, shot almost entirely on location in New York City. And because of that, the crew had to deal with threats from real gangs while they were shooting. In fact, they ended up hiring a local gang to guard their equipment, and other gangs were appeased by being offered roles in the film. What I found most striking was how real and authentic everyone looked. With the sole exception of a physically fit and ruggedly photogenic David Beck, everyone in the film looks overwhelmingly plain and average. Characters have bad teeth, bad hair, bad skin, bad makeup, and other unattractive features, which creates a strong atmosphere of realism. You don't feel like they're actors at all, just normal people you might run into every day. To counter that, the gangs themselves are a bit campy and flamboyant, and feel like they came out of a comic book.

The film moves at a decent pace, as The Warriors are constantly on the run. I was impressed by the athleticism and stamina on display, and chase scenes often included long takes of people running and fighting. The action scenes are good and the fight choreography favors authenticity over flashiness. Everyone fights dirty with whatever they have at their disposal. The soundtrack is a delightful sample of 80's synth rock, which gives the film a slightly futuristic vibe. Only Joe Walsh's "In The City" sounds out of place, even though it's an excellent song. It's definitely a male-centric film, and the attitudes are blatantly misogynistic. There are only a handful of women in the film, and they're all treated as worthless whores or rape subjects. Even though there are no likable characters in the film, you still end up rooting for The Warriors and hoping they'll clear their names and make it to safety. It's an interesting and enjoyable slice of late 70's cinema and culture, shot in an unapologetic style that would disappear in the 80's.