The Warriors review by Mike Long

As a life-long movie fanatic, I'd like to think that I've seen all of the important films of my generation*. (*Meaning those which come from my favorite genres --horror, action, and comedy. I'll be the first to admit that I haven't seen most of the Oscar-winning films from the past 25 years.) However, I do have a life and it hasn't been possible for me to see every movie that I've wanted to. The advent of DVD has certainly helped in this area, as many (relatively) older films have gotten a new life on DVD. The 1979 action film The Warriors was on that short list of movies that I've always wanted to see but never did and thanks to a new DVD release from Paramount, I was finally able to rectify that situation.

The Warriors of the title are a gang from Coney Island. They have been invited to a huge gang meeting in the Bronx. Once there, The Warriors hear a speech from a man named Cyrus (Roger Hill), who claims that the gangs can take over the city. But, just as Cyrus is winning over the crowd, he is shot by Luther (David Patrick Kelly), who blames the shooting on The Warriors. At that point, the police invade the meeting, and The Warriors' leader, Cleon (Dorsey Wright), is attacked by an angry mob. Thus, the remaining members of the gang flee the area. Swan (Michael Beck) takes command of The Warriors and decides that all they have to do is get back to Coney Island and they'll be safe. But, that will be a nearly impossible task, as every gang member in New York is now out to get The Warriors for the murder of Cyrus. As the gang makes their way across the city, they must overcome increasingly bizarre rival gangs, the police, and other obstacles in order to make their way home.

As I watched The Warriors for the first time -- 26 years after its initial release -- I realized two things; the film is very simplistic, and it has clearly been influential on many subsequent movies. I'll discuss that second point first. I'm a big John Carpenter fan, especially his early work, and Escape from New York is one of my favorites from Carpenter. But, while watching The Warriors, I kept thinking to myself, "This certainly reminds me of Escape From New York". I'm not just talking about the idea that the gang must traverse the dangerous streets of New York, but also the unusual look of the gangs and the synthesizer driven music. I'm not implying that Carpenter stole the ideas for his film from The Warriors, but the similarities were certainly eye-opening. Director Walter Hill's use of dark photography and sudden flurries of stylized violence may not seem all that original today, but in 1979 they were somewhat original. The movie does follow the 70s trend of having criminals be the sympathetic characters in the film.

For all of its style, The Warriors has a very simplistic plot which borders on being non-existent. The film is based on a novel, but apparently Hill and co-writer David Shaber threw out most of the messages from the book and just kept the bare-bones plot. One the basic motivating factor has come into play -- the fact that The Warriors are wanted for a murder which they didn't commit -- the film is essentially a long chase scene in which the gang must fight other gangs and the police. Hill is able to wring some suspense out of the film and the look of The Baseball Furies is unforgettable, but the film also drags in spots. The Mercy (Deborah Van Valkenburgh) character feels very forced at times, as if Hill were trying to make her fit into the movie. There's also an odd plot hole in the film. The character Fox (Tom Waites) sees Luther shoot Cyrus and the look which they give one-another indicates that they know each other. However, Fox never says a word about this. (Due to conflicts on the set, Waites' character did go through some drastic changes, so maybe this has something to do with it.) Overall, the acting in the film is good, but Beck seems to be posing every time the camera is on him. I'm definitely glad that I have now seen The Warriors. I found the film to be a bit pedestrian, but I can also see why it's considered a classic.

Paramount Home Entertainment has released a new "Ultimate Director's Cut" DVD of The Warriors to replace their previous DVD release from 2001. As far as I can tell, the only new elements in this cut which are different are some transitional devices and a new title card. The film now opens with the words "Sometime in the future". In his introduction to the film, Walter Hill explains that he always saw The Warriors as being futuristic and a comic-book film. To this end, scenes now begin and end with the film becoming comic-book panels. Seeing the film for the first time, this didn't bother me (although, it did remind me of Creepshow), but long-time fans of The Warriors may find it annoying.

On this new DVD, The Warriors has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. While making the changes to the film, the print was apparently cleaned or remastered, as the image looks good for a movie which is over 25 years old. The picture is sharp and clear, showing only a small amount of grain. There are no overt defects from the source material. The colors look good and the fleshtones appear natural. The image is never too dark, which is good as 99% of the film takes place at night. There is some slight artifacting here and I noticed some mild video noise at times. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track. This sounds like the standard remixed track, as the stereo effects are good, but there is very little in overt surround or subwoofer effects. Gunshots have a somewhat deep bass sound, but the surround action is too discrete. The film's score does sound very good however.

This new DVD features Paramount's trademark method of cutting what could be a long featurette into shorter ones. "The Warriors: The Beginning" (14 minutes), "The Warriors: Battleground" (15 minutes), "The Warriors: The Way Home" (18 minutes), and "The Warriors: The Phenomenon" (15 minutes) all contain comments from Hill, producer Lawrence Gordon, executive producer Frank Marshall, editor David Holden, cinematographer Andrew Laszlo, and many other crew members, plus actors Michael Beck, James Remar, David Harris, David Patrick Kelly, and Deborah Van Valkenburgh. These segments examine nearly every aspect of The Warriors' production, including the source novel, the evolution of the script and the casting process. Most of the featurettes focus on the grueling night-time shooting schedule in New York and how many of the scenes were done. The anecdotes get redundant at times, but fans of the film should be overjoyed with the wealth of information included here. The only other extra is the "Original Theatrical Trailer" for The Warriors, which is presented 16 x 9.

6 out of 10 Jackasses

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