Directed by: Walter Hill
Rotten Tomatoes: 92% - Fresh
Roger Ebert: 2 Stars
There is a sort of other-worldly vibe that pervades The Warriors. I guess the movie is supposed to be set at the time of its release (1979), but it feels post-apocalyptic and unreal. While this may sound like a hindrance, it is in fact the movie's greatest strength.
The plot is bare-bones simple. The Warriors, a gang based in Coney Island, are falsely accused of assassinating the head of The Riffs, the largest and most powerful of New York street gangs, at a sort of peace conference in the Bronx. They must get back to their home turf, lest they be "japped" or "wasted." To stop them, The Riffs send a wire out over local radio to all street gangs, and the chase is on.
Part of the feeling that doomsday has passed comes from those other gangs. There are hundreds of them, each with their own distinct uniforms. One, the Baseball Furies, wears Yankees style pinstripes, wields heavy wooden bats, and sports various shades of full-facial costume makeup, stuff no real street gang would wear. Another gang chases The Warriors around in a black school bus, a-la Mad Max.
The space these gangs inhabit is not the New York most of us know. There seem to be no skyscrapers in the city, just trashed-lined streets and subway trains covered from head-to-toe in graffiti.
All of this would add up to total nonsense if Hill didn't shoot it properly. Lucky for us then this is a director with an eye. It almost feels as though the city is watching the proceedings, like the camera represents the eye of New York. The violence is highly stylized, all slow motion shots and bloodless beatings. The directing makes us forget the story is patentently ludicrous.
While the acting is terrible (it is a B-list cult classic, after all) that is not enough to bring this movie down. It might not be art, but it is a hell of a lot of fun.
The Filmgeek's Grade: B