The JOE-DOWN Reviews ‘The Warriors’

This is an installment for a series on this blog where Joe Brown, Sports Editor for the Red Wing Republican Eagle, and I have a back-and-forth review of a movie. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here. For this installment, Brown picked “The Warriors.”

The info:

The Movie: “The Warriors” (1979)

Starring: Michael Beck, James Remar, David Patrick Kelly

Director: Walter Hill

Plot Summary: (From IMDB) In 1979, a charismatic leader summons the street gangs of New York City in a bid to take it over. When he is killed, The Warriors are falsely blamed and now must fight their way home while every other gang is hunting them down to kill them.

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 89 percent

Our take:

Brown: Now that October is over and I can drop my anxiety by not watching scary movies, I wanted to pick a personal favorite in “The Warriors.” I also wanted to pick it because, much to my surprise, Froemming had never seen “The Warriors.”

There’s plenty that has kept this movie in the limelight, from Cyrus’ “Can you dig it” speech, the radio station scenes and the Baseball Furies. And somehow, you never got through this whole movie?

All right, Froemming, you’re going to have to clear this up for me: How did you never get around to this one?

Froemming: It was just one of those things, I guess. It was always on TV when I was growing up, and I saw a lot of it in pieces, but never got around to sitting down and watching it from start to finish. Now, I can reclaim my pop-culture credentials once again by saying I now have seen “The Warriors.”

And I am going to tread carefully in this review, because I am fairly certain Bemidji Pioneer Editor Matt Cory will beat me if I go too far in my criticisms here (and I do have some).

So Brown, get this thing started.

Cyrus

Brown: I really do enjoy this film, but there is plenty to question about it. We’re straight shooters here on the JOE-DOWN.

Anyhow, the opening credits begin and I’m already much happier than I was when we watched Rob Zombie’s “Halloween.” This movie uses the opening credits to bring the viewers up to speed. There is a meeting going on with all the major gangs in New York at Gramercy Park, headed by Cyrus, the president of the biggest gang in New York City, the Gramercy Riffs. This movie didn’t need 40 minutes of exposition, so take notes, Rob Zombie.

And through the opening credits (complete with great cheesy 70s synth), we get to know our main group in The Warriors and we get Cyrus built up as a god-like figure in the gang world.

We also see how ridiculous gangs are in this city. Just in the opening, there’s a gang of Bruno Mars look-a-likes, mimes, a gang that looks like brainwashed Patty Hearst and a few gangs in satin jackets. I really want an Electric Eliminators jacket after this.

Froemming: I enjoyed the over-the-top gangs, but I also felt bad for the other gangs that had no theme. They must be the street gang equivalent to generic wrestlers.

So yes, we see everyone is heading to the Gathering of the Juggalos the park, and each gang has nine representatives and are not armed — except for the wild card T-Bird from “The Crow” Luther.

Now, Cyrus wants to unite the gangs into some weird version of a socialist gangland paradise, where they would share the turfs for the greater good. And like all charismatic commie pinkos, Cyrus now has a target on his back. Because this is what gangs do. They rob and kill each other. Not unionize for the greater good. Thanks a lot, Obama.

Brown: I cannot wait until Tuesday’s election, just so this is all over with.

Anyhow, this is where I see some head-scratching moments in the movie. First, The Riffs show up either in karate gi tops or bath robes. I’d believe either. And considering that Cyrus is talking about 60,000 gangland soldiers could be walking the streets if they united together, I’m convinced NYC is nothing BUT gangs. Guliani and Bloomberg must have had their hands full cleaning up that city.

Then, we get to the biggest plot hole of the movie: Cyrus’ assassination. Luther shoots him in the middle of this meeting with a revolver, so he needs to be somewhat close to be accurate. You even see a group of people in front of Luther’s gang, The Rogues. And yet when Luther fires, everyone scatters and no one looks around and says, “Hey, the loud gun went off over here!” There was no subtlety to this, and yet Luther just starts screaming about The Warriors. Yes, believe the man who was in the general area of the gunshot and is acting like a nut job. This isn’t a “Where’s Waldo” book, this was pretty straightforward.

Froemming: Yeah, that assassination was weak. But it propels the plot forward. Because, after Luther is screaming that The Warriors were behind the shooting, the mob goes for — and kills — Cleon, who is the leader of The Warriors.

Let me just say, I don’t buy that “Cleon” is a real name. Go with either “Leon” or “Clark.”

In the chaos, The Warriors escape the scene (that becomes even more chaotic when the police show up). And here we start to see some power struggle in the group. With Cleon (I hate even typing that name) MIA, we see Swan assume leadership. This upsets Rapey McRaperton Ajax, who thinks he should be in charge.

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Brown: Well, let’s get this out of the way now: Ajax’s characters only knows fighting and unwanted sexual advances. Really, that’s how all The Warriors are. These characters and not three dimensional, at all. The plot is paper thin (really, this is the only semblance of plot we get). But by that same token, it’s why I like this movie. It’s like the 30-plus year old brother of “Mad Max: Fury Road.” It’s all adrenaline, fights and chases. Sometimes I do want a heavy, dramatic plot in a movie. But sometimes, in my lizard brain, I just want to see fights and stuff on fire.

So now, the hunt is on for The Warriors, who have to get back to their turf in Coney Island (about 30 miles away, not “50-to-100 miles” like Vermin says). And the Riffs have put a hit on The Warriors by using a radio DJ, which is such a cool idea.

Froemming: I agree with enjoying the thin plot. Because of how this movie is paced and how these guys are constantly in danger, I don’t care why they are in a gang or what their motives are. Take note, Rob Zombie, some movies just need to flow. It works. It works here and it worked with the original “Halloween.”

I also thought the DJ used as a communication device to the other gangs was an incredibly cool idea. She gets the word out that The Warriors are to be captured or killed. Which, because they are trying to get back home and don’t have a radio, The Warriors at first are not sure if the truce among the gangs is still in effect.

So The Warriors meet their first obstacle, when they encounter The Orphans — the most pathetic gang I have seen on film. I almost felt sorry for how sad they were, what with sharing the crumpled newspaper clipping about their actions to prove how tough they are. They really need a theme that gives them some back bone.

Brown: Well, when they act all tough, one Molotov cocktail to a nearby parked car is all that’s needed to send them running. But The Orphans do leave one thing with The Warriors that is a pain from time to time: Mercy.

As The Warriors are trying to pass through, Mercy stands on a stoop and eggs on The Orphans into a fight and asks Ajax for his vest (they’re “his colors”). The Warriors walk on through and she harasses the gang. But then she starts following them? Why? They have no interest in her and The Warriors don’t seem to have any moral code to keep her around. And yet she’s there because it’s a movie and of course there has to be some relationship tension scattered throughout. Hold on while I put this on my window…

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Froemming: Because I am a nerd, after watching this I went to YouTube to find out more about the film. I came across a video that explains the differences between the book and the film versions of “The Warriors,” and Mercy has a somewhat different experience in the book: The Warriors gang rape her.

That made me throw up a little in my mouth and I am glad the film took a different route.

Anyway, yeah she tags along with them for no real reason. And they meet some other challenges, especially when the police find them at a subway station, resulting in one of The Warriors being thrown at an oncoming train. But this splits them up, and they need to meet each other down the line.

Brown: But not before Ajax, Snow and Cowboy are chased by the most absurd gang in New York: The Baseball Furies. This is a gang that is SO into their gimmick they wear baseball uniforms and warpaint fit for the Gathering, wielding baseball bats. Earlier in the movie, we see their hideout is a baseball dugout! If this gang was based around old Yankee Stadium, I could maybe buy this, but the movie gives no indication of that.

So, because this movie is an arcade beat-’em-up brought to life, we see The Warriors and The Furies brawl and our “heroes” survive yet another round.

Froemming: Watching the fight with The Furies gave me a flashback to the time I went to an ICP concert. I will say that unlike the depressing Orphans, at least The Furies had bats.

Now, with The Furies royally beaten down, the gang starts heading back on their journey. But, along the way Ajax sees a woman on a park bench. Because he is all testosterone and no brains, he wants to “get to know her” as the others head to the subway station. And by getting to know her, Ajax tries the maneuver of just grabbing at a woman’s genitals. But because this movie is more realistic than a certain presidential candidate’s view of the world, Ajax gets properly arrested for trying to sexually assault this woman.

Brown: This movie becomes chock-full of women from here as we get a scene with Swan and Mercy walking through a subway tunnel after avoiding the cops (they kiss a few times and try to have a deep dialogue in a movie with baseball clowns) and then Rembrandt, Vermin and Cochise are greeted at a subway station by a pack of women.

Quick aside, Froemming: Did it bug you as much as it did me how aside from one subway ride near the end there is nothing but gang members and cops in this movie? This is New York City! These streets will never, ever be this empty. At least give me a guy sleeping on a bench or something.

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Froemming: I did take note of that. I kind of buy into the premise that since these gangs are out at night stalking the streets of their respective boroughs, most New Yorkers might avoid the trains and being outside in general. Then, remembering I have been to New York City and how crowded that place is, I thought this was ridiculous. But, to be fair, there are the prom kids later on who represent the difference between the haves (them) and the have-nots (The Warriors and Mercy). Because a movie with a gang leader on roller skates needs some social commentary.

So those three encounter The Lizzies, which I thought was awesome that there was a tough women-led gang in this movie. Especially for the time this movie was made.

Brown: Nowadays, a movie exec would watch that fight scene and just cut it without mercy. And it’s also good to see The Warriors’ id get them in trouble a few times in this movie.

This is also where The Warriors find out a crucial bit of information: The hit is out and all the gangs in New York are after them. So, now the urgency really is there to get back to Coney Island.

Now, watching this probably six times now, it bugs me that once they’re home, they’re safe. Gangs in New York apparently adhere to the same rules used by elementary school kids playing hide-and-seek. Once you’re home, you’re safe. No. If I’m The Riffs and I’m out for blood, I’m waiting by the Wonder Wheel or the Nathan’s Hot Dog stand to get answers/vengeance.

Now, to the part that seemed to baffle you the most: The fight between The Warriors and The Punks.

Froemming: If I have any major complaint about this movie, it is The Punks. The film tries to make them all sneaky, as they stalk Swan in the subway. One problem here: Roller skates MAKE NOISE! There is no way this gang can be stealthy. Also, being on skates has to be a disadvantage at all times because all it would take to thwart a Punk would be a light shove in the opposite direction.

Brown: When you mentioned this to me Saturday night, I kept a sharp eye on this particular fight. And your anger is a tad overdone for one reason: Only ONE of the Punks is wearing roller skates in the fight. The rest of the group is in shoes/boots. So when they get their asses handed to them by The Warriors in what is a pretty intense close-quarters fight, almost all of them aren’t thwarted by wheels. Don’t bury a gang for the actions of one rogue.

Froemming: Nope. It was stupid, and he fights with his stupid skates on like a very, very stupid man. I can’t take it seriously. And this is a movie where I bought the idea of baseball clowns.

Brown: Did roller skates kill your dog or something? I haven’t seen anything get your dander up like this in a while.

The Warriors win and are on the train headed to Coney. They are beaten, bruised and exhausted and a bunch of dorks from a prom come on the train as well. Like you said, this isn’t the movie for some social commentary. So they’re back in sad, sad Coney Island and we see the spray-painted Cadillac of The Rogues stalking the gang at the amusement park. Because Luther is a genius that does the smart thing and waits for The Warriors to come to him, we get probably the most iconic scene in this film.

Froemming: Another thing I found out from my adventures in YouTube was that this part wasn’t in the script. David Patrick Kelly was told to do something that would get at The Warriors, so he improvised this scene.

So, The Warriors and The Rogues meet at the beach — again, I do not need to know what the reason is that they are rivals — with Swan and Luther about to tango in the deadly art of mortal combat. Luther has a gun, Swan appears to be unarmed until the knife he hid in his belt is revealed. Swan throws the knife into Luther’s wrist, and we see some of the worst over-acting in the history of film from David Patrick Kelly as he screams.

Brown: Between this movie and the scream he makes when falling from a cliff in “Commando,” David Patrick Kelly is one of my favorites.

Now, back to the “Warriors, come out to play” scene, it’s this perfect elixir where you don’t know if he’s crazy, funny or intimidating, but it just works to portray Luther as this  unpredictable weirdo. So when he explains his reason for killing Cyrus as “No reason, I just like doing things like that,” it doesn’t need any further elaboration because we know he’s off his rocker.

But now that he has a knife through his hand, he gets an even worse fate when The Riffs show up suddenly. All there is for The Rogues is ocean on one side and New York’s most powerful gang on the other. They’re (REDACTED).

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Froemming: Which I would have appreciated some clarity here. Because did they know Luther was behind Cyrus’ murder before, or did they, as you explained on Saturday, have Paul Stanley’s magic ability of power-hearing with their eyeballs?

Brown: As much as that would amuse me, they know because someone finally came to the Riffs’ hideout and told the gang he saw who shot Cyrus around the time The Warriors got on the train to Coney. Now, if they said they heard Luther’s admission, then yes, Star Child earball powers for everyone! But I don’t believe that’s the case.

Froemming: Well, Luther meets the wrath of The Riffs. And the DJ announces that The Warriors are no longer in danger. And we end this thrilling, angsty youth revolt to the rebellious music of…Joe Walsh? I was expecting Alice Cooper or, hell this is the late 1970s, maybe The Ramones or something. Not the guitarist for The James Gang and the terrible, terrible Eagles.

Brown: It makes me laugh that the way The Riffs call off the hit like “sorry about that, wrong guys LOL. Here’s Joe Walsh.” Nope, you wanted these guys brought to you against their will or dead. “In The City” is a terrible apology.

And on that, I say let’s take our spray-painted Caddie over to recommendations.

Would You Recommend?

Brown: The first graph of this review, I said I love this movie. And multiple viewings hasn’t changed that. Don’t expect Oscar-worthy performances. Just expect a lot of fun and a good adrenaline rush, especially from a movie that’s now 37 years old.

Froemming: Absolutely. Again, I had never seen this film before Saturday. And I think it works incredibly well and is just a blast to watch these guys brawl their way through New York. It is a really fun film.

Here is what’s coming up for the next Joe-Down: