The Warriors (1979)
UK – 15/US – R
-Cleon – Warlord of the Warriors for about ten minutes of the film. Stomped down in a melee and presumed dead.
-Swan – New Warlord of the Warriors after the death of Cleon. His face never moves from stoicism. Treats women like filth.
-Fox – Unofficial second-in-command. Diplomatic, intelligent and brave, he is very much the Sgt Elias/William Dafoe figure of sense in the madness. Thrown under a train.
-Ajax – If Fox is Elias, say hello to Barnes! A violent homophobe (he should stop being in a gang with other young men in leather waistcoats), he ends up being arrested for molesting an undercover policewoman. In the UK, his name has a special irony; Ajax is a brand of strong drain cleaner, which is appropriate given the open sewer for a mouth he carries.
-Rembrandt, Cochise, Vermin, Snow, Cowboy – Other members. Rembrandt carries the graffiti cans to mark where the Warriors have been.
Cyrus – Okay, so he preaches in robes about miracles, leads a gang of murderous lunatics and dies with his arms outstretched. But why is he a Jesus figure again…?
Mercy – When we first meet her she is streetwise, sassy and has an entire gang under her thumb. By the end, she just wants to be under Swan, desperate for his affections. Doesn’t wear a bra.
The Gramercy Riffs – The largest gang in NYC, led by Cyrus until his death. They wear robes and all appear to be adept in martial arts.
The Rogues – Led by Luther, who shoots Cyrus and then frames the Warriors. Luther is intensely irritating when in possession of three beer bottles. He also has a face like several pork chops frozen together.
The Baseball Furies – Imagine if Marilyn Manson decided to play baseball but kept the face paints.
Lezzies Lizzies – Lesbian gang who snare a couple of the Warriors. Fortunately for the horny members in question, none of them could hit a barn door from five yards with a firearm.
The Punks – Roller-skating gang, battered by the Warriors.
The Orphans – Former gang of Mercy, deluded by their own importance and confused by fire.
The Turnbull AC’s – Prowl around in an enormous graffiti covered bus. All the members have shaved heads, making them look like a vicious branch of the Harry Krishna’s.
DJ – “Hey there boppers.” The omnipresent DJ reports on the Warriors movements, relaying them to other gangs and plays songs to motivate their pursuers (such as ‘Nowhere To Hide’)
“Warrioorrrrsss… Come out to PLAY-AAYYY!”
It is New York, in the year nineteen something or other. The city is grouped into sections controlled by a gang, usually with a subway station as a focal point for the territory. Cyrus, leader of the most powerful gang in the city, calls a truce and invites all the gangs to bring a few members to a Council. There, he explains rather theatrically, that their combined strength outnumbers the police force by three to one and that an alliance of all the gangs could overthrow the police and leave them to rule the city. Can you dig that, suckas?
Well, Luther can’t. Luther is the head of a gang called the Rogues who seizes the opportunity to use Jesus Cyrus as target practise. After blasting him through the chest with a well aimed shot that no one else in the massive crowd seemed to notice, he shouts that the Warriors were responsible. Most of the gang manage to escape, but Cleon is caught in the melee and surrounded by members of Cyrus’ gang. They regroup in a cemetery and (after a brief argument between Swan and Ajax) it is decided that Swan will be the new Chief.
The Warriors go on the run, realising they are miles from the safety of their home turf and with every gang in New York after their blood. On top of that, a DJ lords over the airwaves receiving information on their whereabouts and transmitting it to the gangs, telling them where the Warriors are heading and playing songs dedicated to their demise.
The rest of the film details their long journey and encounter with various gangs that get in the way. The Warriors barely escape the Turnbulls AC’s who are a bit like a gang of neo-Nazi Woodstock hippies, but soon encounter a lesser gang called the Orphans. The Orphans are so p**s-weak that they weren’t even considered for the big meeting, something which seems to rankle them. They initially challenge The Warriors, but Fox’s diplomatic skills come to the fore and he flatters to deceive them. All is going well until Mercy struts in…
Mercy is part of the Orphans but is impressed by those young men in their leather waistcoats. When they refuse her demand to keep one, she goads the Orphan leader into fighting the Warriors. They ignore the Orphan’s empty threats, but are soon caught up by them and their reinforcements. Fortunately, what they lack in brawn they also lack in brain and one Molotov cocktail later, the Orphans are disposed of (that is, left staring at a burning car.)
The Warriors make it to another station, with Mercy in tow, but this time their problem is not gangs but the Police. The gang split up, having agreed that they need to meet at Union Square to change trains – Fox and Mercy end up together whereby Fox is tackled by an over-zealous cop. As the two struggle, he shouts at her to run. The officer sees a train coming and throws Fox into its path, killing him.
The gang are now split into two, with Mercy on her own. Vermin, Cochise and Rembrandt are safely on a train but Swan, Cowboy, Ajax and Snow are pursued by the Baseball Furies. These guys look like nutters, possess baseball bats and outnumber the four guys, and yet they still somehow manage to lose. Useless! Having won that small victory, Ajax decides to celebrate with a little rough and tumble. Spotting a woman sitting alone in the park, he ‘seduces’ her by molesting her and is surprised when she turns out to be an undercover cop. Why would anyone be suspicious about a young, attractive woman openly wearing jewellery, alone in a park at two in the morning? Ajax is left to the police to have, in his own words “a nightstick shoved up his ass.”
Swan goes on alone, whilst Snow and Cowboy go back to check on Ajax. Soon, he encounters Mercy again who informs him that Fox is dead. He shrugs this off and the pair amble past the very platform where his mutilated corpse is probably still lying. After a brief stand off with more police, Swan and Mercy head down one of the tunnels towards Union Square station.
I have something to take issue with here. Fox is one of the more characterised, two dimensional people in this film. He’s clearly brave, tough, but he has a degree of sense and intelligence about him. Audiences will identify with him, mainly because he uses his brain before his not inconsiderable brawn. So I understand why you might want to kill him off as a writer, because it resonates with the audience to lose someone you identified with. But there is no pay-off from his demise. Swan doesn’t seem to care, neither do the rest of the gang ask about him. The first time I saw this, I kept expecting him to mysteriously reappear, having somehow miraculously survived being run over by the subway train. I understand that the gang have to appear tough and unemotional, but the dude is second in command! If the other members of the gang shrug and think ‘so what’ upon hearing of his death, so too will the audience. In terms of impact, he may as well have been kept alive.
Just to balance out the serious nature of that last paragraph, Big Wet Smelly Pooey Knickers.
Meanwhile, the other three have disembarked at Union Square and encounter the
Lezzies Lizzies. An all female gang, their leader invites them to ‘pick’ whoever they want and get down to business. Rembrandt, who seems to have more than two brain cells to rub together, is suspicious whilst the other two think with their peckers and settle down to a night of hot girl action… right up until one of them pulls a gun and starts abusing the walls. Yes, the walls. Despite carrying a firearm and numerous knives, the only thing that takes any damage is Rembrandts arm (how is that for justice) and the wallpaper.
The gang finally manage to regroup (with Mercy) at Union Square, where they are hunted by the Punks, a creepy gang on roller skates. The Warriors lead the Punks into the men’s room, whereby they have one last titanic battle. Having dismantled them in both normal speed and slow motion, the Warriors catch their final train home. There’s a wonderful scene where a couple of prom dates sit in the same carriage as the gang, opposite Mercy and Swan who are covered in dust and grime. One of them leaves her corsage behind – Swan picks it up and gives it to Mercy. Bit late for the chivalry, my friend, considering you’ve spent the past fifty minutes abusing her.
The film ends on the beach back at their home turf of Coney. The Warriors are confronted by the Rogues in a stand off but soon both are surrounded by the Gramercy Riffs who, by now, have learned who really shot Cyrus. The film ends with Luther surrounded by the Riffs and the Warriors (plus Mercy) wandering down the beach. Even the DJ apologises!
First of all, let me say that I adore this film. I even adore the ending, which for some reason my girlfriend (who introduced me to this film) despises – she literally cannot watch it. It’s camp, and yet played straight down the line, all the actors and actresses deliver lines with such earnest that it is impossible not to be charmed. I also like the way the action retains a comic book flavour – every time there is a scene change, the characters on screen become ‘cartoonized’ and it flits as though you are turning a page in a graphic novel.
However, there is one major thing I have to address; one ‘M’ word that hangs over the film like a bad smell. I’m sure you already know what it is; namely Misogyny.
To be fair, the film isn’t trying intentionally to be so. After all, the film does feature an industrious, independent group of women, even if they can’t shoot to save their lives. And Mercy gives as good as she gets for about… ooooh… two minutes, before desperately crumbling at the feet of Swan. See, this is the problem. Swan was written to be stoic, hard and generally unmovable. So to then give him a love interest; well, it’s just asking for trouble.
Putting all that aside, The Warriors is a thoroughly enjoyable, camp romp that flies by. Think the fight at the beginning of A Clockwork Orange, crossed with Lord of the Rings and a little bit of Battle Royale and you’ve got this film in a nutshell.
“Warriorrrrss! Come out to plaaayy-aaaayyyy!!”
Things I Learned From This Film:-
- New York’s weather is unpredictable.
- Homophobes shouldn’t be involved with gangs who wear open leather waistcoats.
- The quickest way to a woman’s heart is stamping all over her self-esteem.
- Orphaned children are confused by fire.
- If you want to survive in a film, don’t pretend to be Jesus.
- Single women in parks after dark should be treated with extreme caution.
- Lesbian’s cannot fire straight, if you’ll excuse the pun.
Stuff To Watch Out For:-
0mins – ‘Milleniums’? Isn’t it Millenia?
3mins – Those guys in the pink waistcoats could only be more stereotypical if they were eating fried chicken and saying ‘fo sho’
20mins – The way that guy talks; suddenly, I’m reminded of the ‘Mouth of Sauron’ from Peter Jackson’s ‘Return Of The King’
36mins – “Why don’t you dickheads just walk all the way home…?” Er… I think that’s the general idea sweetheart.
39mins – Personally, I would’ve thrown it into the crowd rather than into the car.
48mins – Why are you freak shows standing around watching this!? Your mates are being decked! Hit one of them!
54mins – Your colleagues appear to have left you. How attentive of them. At the donut stall again?
58mins – I’m not being prejudice. I’m not saying that a group of women together are always going to be lesbian. All I’m saying is; I’d have my suspicions…
71mins – Is that… Will Ferrell over his shoulder?
76mins – As if people dressed like that would ride the subway home.
79mins – Ghostbusters! Sorry, wrong film. *hums Ghostbusters theme anyway*
81mins – “Warriors… Come out to plaaay-aaayyy!”
84mins – That’s what you get for gloating instead of shooting.
Cyrus – You're standing right now with nine delegates from 100 gangs. And there's over a hundred more. That's 20,000 hardcore members. Forty-thousand, counting affiliates, and twenty-thousand more, not organized, but ready to fight: 60,000 soldiers! Now, there ain't but 20,000 police in the whole town. Can you dig it?
Swan – (to Mercy) Why don't you just tie a mattress to your back? You don't care where it is, do you?
Fox – We’re not gonna change who we are just ‘cos some whore shakes her ass.
Luther – Warrioorrrrss!! Come out to PLAAAYY-AAYYYY