Saturday, October 10, 2015

Movie review - "The Warriors" (1979) **** (re-viewing)

The cartoonish, fantastical depiction of street gangs means this has actually dated very well. The gangs in their outlandish costumes certainly feel more real today than say the more time-accurate gear worn by the kids coming back from the formal on the train at the end.

This has one of the best opening sequences in a film I've ever seen - the spinning wheel at Coney Island, the Warriors debriefing in the dark, the cutting back and forward between the gang talking about what's going on and gang members getting on trains while the pulsating music plays and the credits pop up, cutting to the big stadium, Cyrus' speech and assassination, the ensuing panic.

Truth be told the movie never hits those heights again and at times feels positively anti-climactic - especially at the end on Coney Island Beach when you want a big brawl or something and Michael Beck just shoves a knife in David Patrick Kelly's wrist. Also the occasional stabs at "significance" drag a little - Beck talking about the emptiness of his life and so on.

But there are great sequences - the initial escape on to the train with the gang on the bus, the fight in the park, the scene were some Warriors go hang out with a girl gang and we sense they're about to be trapped (it's a shame Hill had to include a beat at the end of the girls going "aw gee we didn't get them we're hopeless" it undermines their threat... I wish they'd killed one Warrior to give them teeth), the final big brawl in the toilets, the mystery gang member appearing on roller skates and looking as creepy as hell, beating up the Baseball Furies, the bickering relationship between Michael Beck and Deborah Valkenberg (Beck's charisma blows Tom Waits - who was to have had the relationship with her - off the screen and even if Waites hadn't been a pain in the neck it was clearly the right choice to give the romance to Beck).

The cast hold up very well - you wonder why James Remar didn't have more of a career, being so impressive as the meathead Ajax, homophobic and only interested in fighting and sex; Dorsey Wright is a true leader, smart and idealistic; David Harris has a great "Native Indian' look; Tom McKitterick is one of the whimpier Warriors, never that imposing a fighter and running out of puff in the park; Tom Waites is the scout, who at least has a brain if not Beck's charisma; Marcelino Sanchez makes a great impression as the fuzzy haired artist (is he Wright's boyfriend? he's the only one not interested in the girls at the party); Brian Tyler is effective as a good fighter member of the gang; Terry Michos has an engaging honest face and is likeable as a particular dim member. They all seem like individuals. Roger Hill and David Patrick Kelly are sensational in their roles.

It's not a complete masterpiece but it simply works - the tone, the all night feel, the stylised action. I wonder why Walter Hill never made a film in this tone and manner again.

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