3.5 readers, come out to play….3.5 readers, come out to play…
My coronavirus marathon of cult movies continues, this time with that gangland classic, “The Warriors.”
Now, I spent most of my adult life never even having heard of this film. Then it the past few years, I started seeing references to it pop up here and there, people quoting the line when the Warriors are invited to “rumble” or, to “come out to play.”
The plot? Peace is about to break out amongst all the gangs of New York City. Cyrus, the popular leader of the Riffs, has called a giant meeting, asking all the gangs to meet him in the Bronx. In a passionate speech, he points out the gangs are stronger together than apart, that they can do more working together than fighting one another.
It looks like a long lasting truce is about to come to fruition, when he’s shot in cold blood by the Rogues and worse, the Warriors are framed for the crime.
Even worse than the worst, the Warriors have to make a 50 mile trek to the safety of their home turf on Coney Island, forced to fight for their lives against a multitude of street hoodlums, all looking for vengeance on the gang they falsely believe took the life of their savior.
Michael Beck plays Swan, the Warriors’ leader aka their “War Chief.” He is forced into the unenviable position of having to lead his gang home, not to mention having his authority called into question by his hot headed number two, Ajax, played by a young James Remar, who modern viewers might recognize today as Dexter’s adopted father Harry in Dexter. It’s possible there are other young actors in this film who went on to bigger, better things but Remar was the only one I recognized.
The movie’s style is gritty, almost as if the producers were trying to say there’s no whitewash here. We’re showing you gang life in all its sordid, nasty glory. Except, about five minutes into the film, you get the impression that they’re not really doing that at all. The uniforms of the various gangs are silly, sometimes downright hysterical. The Warriors are chased by the Baseball Furies, a bunch of baseball bat wielding, team uniform wearing weirdos.
Do street gangs actually wear such fanciful, perfectly matched costumes in real life? No. To the film’s credit, there is a brief reference to the fact that they’re only dressing so matchy-matchy because they’re going to Cyrus’ gang summit and want to wear their colors to represent their turf. OK. I guess I can give that a pass then.
Meanwhile, in an early scene at the gang summit, we see fools in all sorts of silly matching outfits, the gang of street mimes being the most memorable.
Is that tongue in cheek? Probably. This is definitely a Hollywood version of gang life. Not so schmaltzy as in West Side Story, where the gangs ward each other off with their fancy dance moves. It’s definitely rougher than that, though at times, sillier.
I’ll give it this. The plot is simple and straight and sometimes that can be great in a movie. The twists are few, if any, and really, it’s just a survival flick. The terms are set forth early. They have been framed. Bad guys who don’t know they have been framed want them dead. They need to get home before they are killed. What keeps the bad guys from just going to their turf? I don’t know. Rules and reasons, I guess.
Obviously, there are plenty of things that don’t fly today. The Warriors are pretty quick to label each other with “the F word for homosexuals” at the slightest sign of weakness. Oh, and they’re a Native American themed gang with nary a Native American within its ranks, so there’s that.
STATUS: Shelf-worthy. SPOILER ALERT: There’s a scene where a group of ladies pick up the Warriors and invite them back to their apartment, seemingly on the auspices of offering nookie. In reality, they trap our favorite gang and attempt to murder them. I’m proud to say I would never fall for such a rouse, as whenever a woman flirts with me I always, without fail, assume that it’s all just a rouse intended to lead me to my demise. While none of us know for sure how we will die, I know for me, it will never be because I was tricked into thinking a woman found me attractive. So, there’s that.