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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 33.33%
Average: 2.56%
Pretty Bad: 3.42%
Total Crap: 2.56%

5 reviews, 87 user ratings

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Warriors, The
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by Mel Valentin

"The dictionary definition of 'cult classic.'"
4 stars

Directed and co-written by Walter Hill from a mass-market novel by Sol Yurick, "The Warriors" is a New York City gangs-on-the run flick made in the late 1970s. It's also acquired the rank of "cult classic" for Hill's bold stylistics, taut direction, quotable dialogue, loopy thematics, pulpy storyline, and for some, the references to a Greek legend about a Greek army fighting its way out of a hostile Persia, Xenophon's "Anabasis." At the time of "The Warriors" release in 1979, Unfortunately, Hill, in a fit of misjudged revisionism, made significant, if unnecessary, changes for "The Ultimate Director's Cut." Hill adds colorful comic book panels and enhanced vertical wipes, presumably to foreground "The Warriors" pulpy, comic book origins and to bridge scenes with explanatory material (none of it necessary).

The Warriors, a Coney Island, multi-ethnic gang, have been invited to Pelham Bay Park, Bronx for a "conclave." At the direction of Cyrus (Roger Hill), the charismatic leader of the Gramercy Riffs, the largest gang in New York, a truce has been called. The gangs will meet to discuss the future of gang cooperation. Cyrus, called the "one and only" in an early scene, is clearly marked as a combination messiah figure/African-American revolutionary. He has the rhetorical skills of a Malcolm X or Martin Luther King, Jr., but social or racial justice plays no part in his plans. Cyrus instead wants to create a coalition of gangs, with the Gramercy Riffs as the vanguard, and wrest control of New York City from the politicians and organized crime families.

A bullet cuts Cyrus’ vision short, however. Another gang, unhappy with the idea of ceding control to Cyrus and the Gramercy Riffs, assassinate Cyrus in mid-speech. The leader of the Rogues, Luther (David Patrick Kelly), vociferously blames the Warriors for the murder (they're innocent, course). The leader of the Warriors, Cleon (Dorsey Wright), is violently separated from his gang, leaving Swan (Michael Beck), his second-in-command as the new leader. Swan, in turn, is immediately challenged by the hot-tempered Ajax (James Remar), but exigencies (i.e., the cops and the other gangs) leaves their conflict momentarily unresolved. Swan must now lead his gang back to Coney Island, their home turf, where, presumably, they'll be safe.

The rest of Swan's multi-ethnic gang includes Snow (Brian Tyler), Cochise (David Harris), Cowboy (Tom McKitterick), Rembrandt (Marcelino Sánchez), Vermin (Terry Michos), and Fox (Thomas G. Waites), Swan's right-hand man. The gang must pass through (and fight their way through) various neighborhoods controlled by other gangs, including a mixed-race of skinheads, the Turnball A.C.'s. The storyline pivots on the Warriors making it to Coney Island via subway. Without a direct route back to Coney Island, the Warriors have to first make it to Union Square, and from there catch the subway that will take them home.

Along the way, they must pass through the turf of the Orphans, a weaker gang with an inferiority complex (they weren't invited to the conclave). There, the Warriors run across Mercy (Deborah Van Valkenburgh), a local girl of easy virtue. For no discernible reason, Mercy first taunts, then joins the Warriors, ultimately becoming Swan's love interest. Before the night is over, the Warriors have to come face to face with several other gangs, including the brightly colored Baseball Furies and the Lizzies, an all-female gang. A Radio DJ (Lynne Thigpen), obviously aligned with the Gramercy Riffs, sends periodic updates over the airwaves noting the Warriors progress.

Predictably, the Warriors are separated into smaller groups, forcing them to rely on their wits, instincts, and fighting prowess. Interestingly, the Warriors who lose sight of their goal, getting home, are the ones most likely to get lost or be captured (sex or sexual control plays a large role in determining who makes it out alive). There are one or two surprises along the way, including the memorable reappearance of Luther calling the Warriors out to play (although usually remembered as "Warriors, come out and play," Luther's actual dialogue is "Warriors, come out to play," while he taps three empty beer battles between his fingers).

Outside of Hill's egregious, nonsensical decision to alter a film best left along, The Warriors does suffer from notable (and noticeable) flaws, not least of which is the underwritten romantic subplot that depends on several undermotivated character reversals. In its treatment of the female characters, as either deceptive or promiscuous, The Warriors can be easily (and accurately) characterized as misogynistic. The misogyny is partially ameliorated by the almost dreamlike logic that permeates The Warriors, a film that takes place in semi-isolation, with New York City seemingly abandoned to the gangs whose costumes, attitudes and behavior are far from realistic (it's nearly impossible to accept the multi-ethnic composition of the Warriors, a decision dictated by the film's producers rather than any attempt at verisimilitude).

Then too, The Warriors isn't without its plot holes, none larger than the Warriors not finding alternate means of transportation when they discover that other gangs and the police are watching the subways. Switching from one means of transportation to another would have been more credible and opened up different possibilities beyond the characters absurdly outrunning a busload full of skinheads incapable of catching them or the characters attempting to find a safe haven for the night until the cover of day (and other people) allowed them an easier path back to Coney Island. It's also hard to imagine how The Warriors was controversial or "caused" gang violence to break out at screenings back in 1979. The reports of violence led a studio nervous about bad publicity and potential lawsuits to prematurely remove The Warriors from circulation. Given the often laughable gang costumes (even mimes seem to have a gang of their own, as do pimps), The Warriors is far campier than some fans care to recognize.

Ultimately, "The Warriors" isn't the kind of film that will convince viewers that they're watching a socio-political treatise on gangs, their psychology, causes, or offer solutions. It's quite the opposite. "The Warriors" is campy, over-the-top, occasionally so bad-it's-good (especially the dialogue) genre effort that, more than twenty-five years after its initial release, continues to be highly entertaining, if sometimes for the "wrong" reasons.

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originally posted: 11/01/05 16:09:06
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User Comments

5/15/18 LEON INSTANT CLASSIC 5 stars
11/04/17 Outspeaker reminds me of the Chicago I grew up in, back in the 1940s. 5 stars
10/04/17 Maurizio I dug it ! 4 stars
4/24/17 David H. A little trite, but still a great time capsule of late '70s New York. 4 stars
6/16/13 RS Eerie view of a frightening NYC scene-over the top, but engaging. 4 stars
9/11/11 Rob Great action, great soundtrack, even if it is silly. 4 stars
11/08/10 Luke One of the best HORROR movies of all time... 5 stars
6/27/09 okgatsby A cult classic pulp joyride. If this doesn't rock you bopper then take off your colors. 5 stars
3/17/09 Josie Cotton is a goddess ACTION-PACKED!!!! 4 stars
7/26/08 Ace I don't know...I just like doing things like that 5 stars
6/13/08 DM It's silly but entertaining - and James Remar looks hot. 4 stars
4/19/08 Karrie Millheim I LOVE THIS MOVIE, old school gangs and a great story 5 stars
3/09/08 Bubba O'Reilly I like it, but... FOR GOSH SAKES, SOMEBODY HAIL A CAB!!! 4 stars
1/27/08 Jeffrey Gardner Watch this with Streets of Fire for the full 80's dystopian effect 5 stars
10/25/07 Andre original, & beautiful on blu-ray 4 stars
10/20/07 Roger Ebert You either like it or you don't. What else needs to be said? 4 stars
8/13/07 andrew gerges can u digit,can you digit,CANYOU DIGGIT!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
7/15/07 specialK i've been wanting to see it since '79....i'm sorry but this was total crap. 1 stars
6/20/07 Mick My fav' film of all time - a masterpiece. 5 stars
6/17/07 David Cohen A suspenseful and engaging thriller 4 stars
4/18/07 Mandrakegray The greatest CULT film of all time. A classic. Period. Can You Dig It? 5 stars
2/18/07 David Pollastrini kinda dull 3 stars
2/11/07 action movie fan lame silly adaption of sol yuricks far better and realistic book-movie pales to the book 2 stars
2/06/07 AJ Muller The Coney boppers still get it done over 20 years later; they're not good, they're the best 5 stars
1/13/07 Tank Murdoch The Orphans were thebaddest gang,thats why the warriors ran from them! They're chickenshits 1 stars
9/19/06 Dan Weiss A great film from virgin actors. Ajax was the best. 5 stars
8/01/06 Joe CAAAAAAAAN YOOOOOOOOOU DIG IT?!? I sure as hell do. 4 stars
6/04/06 michael Come out and play definatly worth watching 5 stars
6/02/06 San Lamar i say take a look 4 stars
6/01/06 Bails Still as fresh now as the first time i saw it! A true classic 5 stars
4/22/06 ted lindsay greatest action film ever can you dig it 5 stars
4/05/06 Ajax If I was warlord we would have all made it back alive! Swan and Cleon went fagget! Wimps! 2 stars
3/24/06 Sugarfoot One of Hill's greatest movies. 5 stars
2/10/06 Dave Fucken Awesome shit, 5 stars
12/14/05 deadfishrman warriors come out and playyyyyyyyyaayyy 4 stars
12/02/05 George a beautiful film,you just root for these warriors from start to finish 4 stars
11/23/05 C Vega a surpingly brilliant movie....DO NOT REMAKE THIS CLASSIC! 5 stars
10/21/05 Wisamane wow i didnt know the movie was made in the 70's it looked like from the 90's! amazing Fx! 5 stars
10/07/05 Curtis My favorite film, even the trailer kicks, over the top costumes, but there be tigers here 5 stars
6/05/05 Dave A fast pace film that keeps you entertained even if it has weaknesses. 4 stars
4/26/05 Trinere Tes performs Warriors live soundtrack set ! ! ! 5 stars
1/27/05 tatum Gangbangers a little TOO stylish; still rewarding 4 stars
1/24/05 Jeff Anderson WALTER HILL'S TRUE MASTERPIECE! Please, I beg you, do NOT remake this film! You'll be sorry 5 stars
1/03/05 bill jingle the movie is so sweet, ODB RIP 5 stars
5/20/04 Proteus from Warriors to 321 Contact for two cast members. Astonishingly fun. 5 stars
1/28/04 LIAM JACKSON great movie.the best scene is when cyrus is shot. it's so funny when he gets killed. 5 stars
12/19/03 ROY L. CAIN,JR. "THE GODFATHER" of gang movies. Best gang: The Lizzies. 5 stars
11/28/03 john one of the best action movies ever made 5 stars
9/27/03 Alan Far more style than substance, but when it has this much style................ 4 stars
9/25/03 Stefan Halka Who ever a thought a plot about a gang trying to get back could be such a good watch? 4 stars
9/09/03 Laura Stuart James Remar Is So hot in this one! If you don't like this movie you suck 5 stars
8/30/03 Christian Adair Mann One of my favorite movies! Great action scenes! Kind of far-fetched, but great fun. 5 stars
4/01/03 Jack Sommersby Stylish and suspenseful, but it's still pretty cliched. 4 stars
10/21/02 Stacey Ouch. 2 stars
7/12/02 KMG's time to playay.... 5 stars
6/11/02 TLsmooth Inpired me to found The Crips. 5 stars
4/06/02 Tantive7 The People's opinion is, Awesome!! Nuff Said.. The critics are wrong in the end. THE BEST!! 5 stars
1/16/02 Ringer(big dog) A stunning,fantastic film AWESOME!!!!! 5 stars
11/14/01 King James One of the best ever 5 stars
11/13/01 marmy the best 5 stars
8/01/01 Allan Awesome, gripping, Swann's my man 5 stars
7/06/01 Bobby Hill Critics of this satire are clueless. The acting is in the movement: I can dig it! 5 stars
6/24/01 joelee Stylized violence & great art direction make up for hokey story. 4 stars
6/03/01 Tbone Awesome!!! one of my favorites of all time. 5 stars
4/28/01 Doug This must be a very old site COOL MOVIE THOUGHAus 4 stars
4/23/01 Skip Young I know it's highly revered, but it's never done anything for me. 2 stars
4/21/01 ReservoirDog2001 the greatest movie i ever saw 5 stars
3/06/01 Wanja Seifert Can you dig it??? 5 stars
2/02/01 ray pua a fukin well thought up movie for a film that was filmed in 79,this is the best gang movies 5 stars
12/23/00 irfan mirza entertaining and violent 5 stars
10/18/00 Will Marks Totally Brilliant 5 stars
9/26/00 Paul This movie makes you want to join a gang and kick butt! 5 stars
7/30/00 Rogue Librarian Best "Gotta fight every theme-oriented street gang" movie ever! 5 stars
7/06/00 francisco ponce all a chant to virility, 5 stars
6/28/00 HUSKER IN MY TOP FIVE OF ALL TIME!!! 5 stars
3/06/00 Neil Hawkins This film rocks, shout "CAN YOU DIG IT" on the vinegar stroke 5 stars
3/05/00 juan jaramillo GREAT MOVIE! MICHAEL BECK'S AWESOME 5 stars
8/23/99 Cyrus This film is brilliant! 5 stars
7/27/99 Pete Rios This movie ROCKS! 5 stars
4/13/99 Jon Jackson I stumbled on this movie by accident, it's a lot of fun, I can dig it! 5 stars
2/01/99 Original Gangsta word. this movie rocked. cool how they portrayed the NYPD as yet another gang 5 stars
11/29/98 Mike F SHIT! 1 stars
11/25/98 little jerry Poor Man's Kubrick.Hill's little known HARD TIMES[aka.The Streetfighter] is much better. 3 stars
10/28/98 Silent Rob 'No reason...I just like doin' things like that!' 5 stars
9/28/98 Brandon B. Hillarious Broadway dancers portray long island gangs. 5 stars
9/17/98 Chuck-D this movie rules - campy 70's gang fun 5 stars
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  09-Feb-1979 (R)
  DVD: 04-Oct-2005



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