Sunday, 24 February 2013

The Warriors (1979)

The Warriors (Walter Hill, 1979) is in every regard inferior to Walter Hill's true opus, Streets of Fire (1984). And yet Streets of Fire languishes forgotten while The Warriors has hot coals of hipster cred heaped upon its undeserving head. It's enough to drive a girl to drink. But my wine rack is empty, so I'm going to write a review instead.

Rock rock. Rockaway Beach.
The titular Warriors are a teenage street gang in a dystopic NYC overrun by teenage street gangs (in 1979, New York City basically was a textbook dytopia, so that's a little less creative than it sounds). When a gangland conference held in hostile territory goes awry, the Warriors are faced with the impossible-seeming task of returning to Coney Island, their claimed stomping grounds. Leader Swan (Michael Beck) indefatigably shepherds his charges through convenience stores and subways, evading or trouncing enemy gangs of hot lesbians and Little League players. Finally, as the sun rises on the Warriors stealing their own personal home base, we hear the cry that has gone down in cinematic history: villainous Luther (David Patrick Kelly) sing-songing "Warrrrrrriors, come out to plaaaaaaaay...." Surprisingly little comes of his invitation, and the movie's over ten minutes later.

The Warriors is not a bad movie. It has its selling points. The plot is endearingly asinine, the costumes approach A Clockwork Orange in their impractical, bizzaro charm, and Lynne Thigpen's red-hot, ice-cool disc jockey -- shot exclusively in extreme close-up -- is the most tantalizing pair of lips since The Rocky Horror Picture Show. It's also really cool to see so many PoCs in a film from the Seventies, although the fact that they're all playing delinquents makes it a little less progressive.

My real problem with this movie is it's the same thing over and over. Turf war, rinse, repeat. Also, if you have any feminist proclivities whatsoever, The Warriors will make multiple attempts to piss you off. I'm not complaining that there's not a strong enough female presence in the movie -- let's be realistic, the Bechtel Test exists for a reason -- but every time they encounter double X chromosomes, the Warriors respond by immediately attempting seduction, with as much or as little force as they judge necessary to the occasion. The one female character who is not merely a target of the Warriors' erotic ambitions, the tiresomely shrill Mercy (Deborah Van Valkenburgh), is lambasted by Swan for being insufficiently virginal. Listen, Warriors, I know that you're busy guys with a lot on your plate, but you might want to check that virgin/whore complex and sexual double standard!

Basically, The Warriors is an okay movie, but life is short and who has time for an okay movie? Massively overrated. Watch Streets of Fire instead.

Michael Rennie was ill the day the earth stood still....
SCENE STEALER: Lynne Thigpen as the DJ/narrator who delivers her running commentary on the Warriors' journey in a low, flirty purr. Later, Lynne Thigpen was the Chief.

You ain't gettin' away this time, Carmen!!!
When I was three years old, the Chief was the woman I admired most in the world, aside from Anne of Green Gables and my mother. I don't want to get maudlin or anything, but Thigpen died quite tragically young almost exactly ten years ago, and... just... when I think of her chirping "this is the Chief, signing off"... is there... something in my eye? Also she was born on my birthday. December 22. Sagittarius/Capricorn cusp! Lynne Thigpen, I love you. : (

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