This week's Our Daily Trailer theme is "Gritty New York Films of The '70s and '80s," which means that someone was bound to cover The Warriors. That someone may as well be me, as it's one of the few "Gritty New York Films of The '70s and '80s" I can speak about with any real authority (which is to say, I've seen The Warriors a few times; unlike some of my fellow BAD writers - who were raised in honest-to-god cultural melting pots - I grew up on the cold, hard streets of a blindingly white Dallas suburb). It was this, Taxi Driver or Death Wish, and...well, Devin snagged Taxi Driver on Monday, and Death Wish is no The Warriors.
Based on a 1965 novel by Sol Yurick, The Warriors tells a fairly simple tale: the leader of the most powerful gang in New York City, Cyrus (Roger Hill) calls a midnight meeting of all the major gangs in the city. Each is requested to send a number of unarmed representatives to Pelham Bay Park, where, upon arrival, they learn that Cyrus is interested in calling a truce: rather than continue fighting one another for a few square city blocks, he proposes that they combine their efforts to fight The Man. Why remain splintered and ultimately powerless if they could just link arms and take over the entire city for themselves? It's a good plan, in theory, but it immediately falls apart when one of the assembled gang leaders takes exception to Cyrus' proposal and shoots him dead (oh, vicious street gangs: at the end of the day, you're your own worst enemy).
One thing leads to another, and The Warriors - a street gang from Coney Island - are framed for Cyrus' shooting. Our heroes are now saddled with the unenviable task of getting from one side of New York City to the other without getting shot, stabbed or bludgeoned by the bajillion other gangs who are now baying for their blood. They point themselves to the southwest and set off for home, confronting one gang after another along the way.
And...that's it, really. The whole thing's structured like a video game (the people at Rockstar Games agreed, and turned the film into an action/survival title back in 2005), and it's as simple as it sounds; The Warriors doesn't really stand out in terms of plot. Instead, it excels in showcasing a hyper-stylized version of New York City at the time. The legendary grimy alleyways and poorly-lit subway stations of the fabled NYC of the '70s/early '80s are on full display here, but they're accentuated with the bizarro themed costumes that each of the warring gangs wears into battle. The Warriors themselves are dressed in denim and dark leather vests, while the Orphans defend their territory in dirty t-shirts and blue jeans. The bat-carrying Furies (the most iconic of The Warriors' gangs) are made up like nightmarish baseball players, while the Hell's Kitchen Rogues would probably fit in at your friendly neighborhood leather bar. A lot of the fun of The Warriors is just seeing how each gang's styles- - in terms of clothing and fighting - clash against one another (for more on the gangs of The Warriors, check out Mental Floss' excellent gang-by-gang breakdown here).
Walter Hill (who produced Alien the same year he directed this film) is now a legend, and The Warriors is absolutely a cornerstone of that man's legend. It's a big, weird, gritty, mean-spirited spectacle of a movie, and really deserves to be seen with an unruly crowd on the biggest screen possible (incidentally, the Drafthouse produced what might have been the greatest Warriors screening of all time back in 2006, when it screened outdoors on the Drafthouse's Rolling Roadshow screen on Coney Island; the poster below - from the great Tyler Stout - comes from that screening). If you're a frequent BAD reader and you've somehow avoided seeing it until now, I highly recommend giving it a shot. You can wait for it to pop back up on Netflix Instant, or you can pick it up via the link below (in an unrated Director's Cut, which I'm not certain I've seen) for less than the price of a nice, new baseball bat.