Just Films & That
Guest Blog | A Love Letter to The Warriors | Sinead of Crackpot Theories Podcast
We invited some guest bloggers to write us a love letter to their favourite film. First up we hear from Sinead from Crackpot Theories Podcast. Catch her on twitter @Crackpotpod
The Warriors is a cult classic for a reason; it’s a perfect time capsule of the era it sprung from, at the same time being so ridiculously cartoonish and earnest it almost comes off like a superhero film.
Very loosely based on a book by Sol Yurick, which itself was inspired by Xenophon’s Anabasis, this film sees a smalltime city gang called the Warriors trying desperately to make their way back to Coney Island after being accused of murdering the gangland Messiah, Cyrus. Every gang in New York is out for their blood, from low-level thugs the Orphans to all-female gang the Lizzies to bat-wielding mimes the Baseball Furies.
To make matters worse, there’s a smooth-voiced radio DJ egging all the gangs on, trading information and playing the most goady tracks the seventies has to offer. It’s hard to feel sour about a film that has a group of leather-clad punks being chased by a repurposed riot bus to the tune of Martha and the Vandella’s ‘Nowhere to Run.’ As hard-edged as it is, it’s an inherently goofy film. The way the Warriors run into gang after gang with impressively on-theme costumes is almost like watching someone play Pokemon.
The film bears very little resemblance to the book it was based on. Sol Yurick wrote the characters as pathetic juvenile delinquents who needed to call their social worker to bail them out of trouble. Director Walter Hill portrays them as rough but largely decent guys, with the exception of Ajax who appears to have more testosterone than brain cells and gets taken out of the game for harassing an uncover policewoman. They have a general contempt for anyone who isn’t part of their gang but are doggedly loyal to each other. When defacto leader Swan picks up hard-as-nails gang floozie Mercy, he is as coarse with her as he is with anyone else but there’s an underlying tenderness to their relationship.
There is an unusually sombre and beautiful moment when the gang plus Mercy, having already fought their way across half of New York, get to rest up a little on a subway carriage that’s suddenly boarded by a group of teenagers coming back from some sort of prom or homecoming dance. The two groups quietly regard each other, and there is a slight tension that these rough characters would instinctively start messing with the more upwardly mobile teens, but the Warriors aren’t interested in picking pointless fights. When one of the girls leaves her corsage behind, Swan regifts it to Mercy.
Contrasting the Warriors’ quiet machismo is Luther, leader of the Rogues and the actual murderer of Cyrus. Luther is a giggling, shrieking maniac who only killed Cyrus for the hell of it and pinned it on the Warriors because they happened to be there. In what is probably the most famous moment from the film, Luther calls for the Warriors to come out and play in the most aggravatingly sing-song tone this side of your two-year-old niece, clinking beer bottles that he’s stuck to his fingers for some reason. Played by most actors, this guy would come off as too silly to be threatening, but actor David Patrick Kelly manages to bring a Joker-esque menace to the role. Apparently the beer bottle scene was improvised, so how much of Luther is down to good direction and how much is down to Kelly just being Kelly is debatable.
Even if you don’t enjoy any of this spectacle, at the very least the film has an excellent soundtrack full of soul, funk and rock staples, peppered by Lynn Thigpen gleefully adding fuel to the fire as the DJ tracking the Warriors’ movements across the city. When the truth finally comes out about the gang’s innocence, the DJ gives the most flippant, mocking apology imaginable, about as sincere as your childhood bully being forced to say sorry by the headteacher. But it’s Lynn Thigpen, so you’d imagine they’d forgive her anything.
In 2005, a video game based on the film was finally made so you can live your Warrior fantasy, roaming around New York beating the living daylights out of the Hi-Hats, the Gramercy Riffs, the Turnbull AC’s and every other silly-named, silly-costumed group of thugs you come across. If you ever wanted to play Pokemon just to beat up on Team Rocket grunts, then this is the game for you. And believe me, after watching the film you will want to play the game too.
You could do much worse with an hour and a half of your time than give The Warriors a go. Even if you hate every minute of it, you’ll find yourself quoting it for years afterwards.
Originally published on Tumblr on 24th March 2020