April 30th, 2002


"Clair-is-sa, Come out and play-i-ay"

I needed to watch a movie the night that I got all my crowns put in. And I needed something to distract me from the pain. For some reason, I kept finding myself drawn to "The Warriors"*. It was in the 99-cent rental section so, what the heck, I got it. I also got another couple of movies because I thought it likely that I wouldn’t want to watch after the first 15 minutes.

But no, I totally enjoyed it. I feel a little bad reviewing it here after reviewing two books in the last month which are a lot more worthy of attention, but let’s not have a high vs. low culture debate in this forum.

Even if you haven’t seen the movie you’d remember the trailer if you were old enough to watch TV. It was the one with all the weird gangs fighting in New York City. There are gangs with painted faces and baseball bats, gangs on roller skates and overalls (they actually looked like a Dexy’s Midnight Runners gang, except for the roller skates), gangs of interracial skinheads, and my favorite, a gang of mimes.

The plot is basic. The biggest gang in the city (The Riffs) calls a meeting in the Bronx to unite all the gangs in the city against the common enemy. After a rousing speech, "Can you count, Motherfuckers? The world is ours if we can count. We represent 60,000 (gang) soldiers. There’s not but 20,000 cops in the whole city. CAN YOU DIG IT?" the leader of The Riffs is assassinated and The Warriors (from far away Coney Island) are framed. The nine, unarmed representatives of The Warriors then have to sneak and fight their way back home with every gang in the city trying to kill them.

OK, I know you’re laughing at me by now. I certainly enjoyed this movie on an old-school action movie level. I love the way The Warriors defeat the baseball bat gang because even though The Warriors are outnumbered, The Bat Boys (I don’t remember their real name) will only attack one at a time. But there were enough moments that rise above the genre to make it (a little) interesting to more than hard core action fans.

First of all, the leader of the evil gang that framed The Warriors is totally the character that Crispin Glover modeled his "River’s Edge" character on. He’s an evil, skinny, pasty speed freak who’s signature moment is banging three beer bottles together between his fingers and saying, "Warriors, come out and play-I-ay" I was just waiting for him to say, "John was our friend, maaaaaan" or "Fuck you, Clair-is-sa".

The gender roles, which threaten to make the movie unwatchable at first are, more or less, redeemed. The Warriors member who only wants to fight and accuses everyone else of "going faggot" when they try to avoid suicidal situations, get arrested stupidly due to his attempts to live up to the tough-guy, hyper-heterosexual image he’s created for himself. Also, the Warriors are the only gang with a femmey artist guy in their group of delegates. He’s the graffitti artist** and not only is he valued for that, but he saves two other Warriors from the dyke gang ("The Lizzies"). Since he’s just not interested in making out with them, he doesn’t fall into their trap ("Want to dance, Little Man?") and get distracted from the dangerous situation The Warriors are in.

The Warriors are also the most interracial gang of all the ones we see except for maybe the lesbo gang. The evil gang is all white, the Riffs, the most organized and respected gang, are all Black, The Warriors have all sorts of "Indian" stuff hanging off them and their name is "The Warriors". To be honest, I don’t know what to make of the race politics of the movie beyond that so I’ll just stop there. It’s kind of a mess. I’m sure it says something about race politics of the late ‘70s, idealized and paranoid views of urban youth and much more, but I was on pain killers and coming down off the brain cell-killing nitrous oxide, so I can’t really come up with anything smart to say here.

There are also tons of beautiful shots of Brooklyn and the Bronx circa 1979. Amazingly graffittied subway cars and a few terribly fake tattoos. Check it out if you’ve got nothing better to do. Or if you're on pain meds.

*Don’t confuse the horrible movie "The Wanderers" with "The Warriors. "The Wanderers" is not worth seeing even if you have fond memories of it from childhood. Trust me.
**Actually his tagging scenes are laughable. It takes him a whole minute just to paint a "W", the mark of The Warriors.
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