The Warriors (film)
|Directed by||Walter Hill|
|Produced by||Lawrence Gordon|
|Written by||Sol Yurick (novel) |
Walter Hill (screenplay)
|Starring||Michael Beck |
Deborah Van Valkenburgh
David Patrick Kelly
|Music by||Barry De Vorzon |
|Editing by||Freeman Davies |
Susan E. Morse
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Release date(s)||February 9, 1979|
|Running time||93 minutes|
The Warriors is a 1979 American cult action/thriller film directed by Walter Hill and based on Sol Yurick's 1965 novel of the same name. Like the novel, the film borrows elements from the Anabasis by Xenophon.
Cyrus (Roger Hill), leader of the Gramercy Riffs, the most powerful gang in New York City, calls a midnight summit of all New York area gangs, requesting them to send nine unarmed representatives to Van Cortlandt Park. The Warriors, from Coney Island, Brooklyn, are one such gang. Cyrus proposes the assembled crowd a permanent citywide truce that would allow the gangs to control the city. Most of the gangs laud his idea, but Luther (David Patrick Kelly), leader of the Rogues, shoots Cyrus and frames the Warriors. In the ensuing panic, the Warriors escape but their "war lord" Cleon (Dorsey Wright) is beaten down by the Riffs with his fate unknown. Unbeknownst to the Warriors, however, the Riffs call a hit on them through a DJ (Lynne Thigpen), believing them responsible for Cyrus' death. Swan (Michael Beck), the gang's "war chief", takes charge of the group and they head back to the subway.
On the way, the Turnbull ACs attempt to apprehend the Warriors but they manage to escape. On the ride to Coney Island, the train is stopped by a fire on the tracks, dumping the Warriors in Tremont, in the Bronx. There, they come across a gang called the Orphans, led by Sully (Paul Greco), who are parlayed into letting the Warriors through peacefully, until a woman named Mercy (Deborah Van Valkenburgh), convinces the Orphans to put up a fight, which the Warriors avoid by using a Molotov cocktail. Mercy decides to follow the Warriors.
When they arrive at the 96th Street and Broadway station in Manhattan, they are chased by patrolling police. Three of them make the train to Union Square, while Fox (Thomas G. Waites), struggling to escape the police, is pushed on to the tracks and run over by a train while Mercy escapes. Swan and the remaining three run outside, and are chased into Riverside Park by the Baseball Furies where a fight ensues and the Warriors emerge victorious. After the fight, Ajax (James Remar) attempts to rape a lone woman (Mercedes Ruehl) in the park and is arrested when the woman turns out to be an undercover female police officer. Arriving at Union Square, Vermin (Terry Michos), Cochise (David Harris), and Rembrandt (Marcelino Sánchez) are seduced by an all-female gang called the Lizzies. Back at their hangout, the Lizzies draw weapons, but the trio narrowly escape, learning in the process that everyone believes they killed Cyrus.
Having gone ahead on his own, Swan returns to the 96th Street station, and finds Mercy there. More police show up and Swan and Mercy flee into the tunnel. They have an argument and Swan continues to Union Square where he reunites with the other Warriors. A fight ensues with the Punks but the Warriors manage to win. The Riffs are meanwhile visited by a gang member who attended the earlier gathering, a witness to Luther firing the gun. The Warriors finally arrive at Coney Island, but find the Rogues waiting for them. Swan suggests he and Luther fight one-on-one, but Luther pulls his gun. Swan throws a knife into Luther's wrist, disarming him. The Riffs then arrive and apprehend the Rogues as the Warriors walk off down the beach. The DJ announces that the big alert is called off when it turns out that the earlier reports were wrong.
- Michael Beck as Swan
- James Remar as Ajax
- Dorsey Wright as Cleon
- Brian Tyler as Snow
- David Harris as Cochise
- Tom McKitterick as Cowboy
- Thomas G. Waites as Fox
- Terry Michos as Vermin
- Marcelino Sánchez as Rembrandt
- Deborah Van Valkenburgh as Mercy
- Roger Hill as Cyrus
- David Patrick Kelly as Luther
- Lynne Thigpen as D.J.
- Ginny Ortiz as Candy Store Girl
- Mercedes Ruehl as Policewoman
- John Snyder as Gas Station Man
- Edward Sewer as Masai
- Paul Greco as Sully
Producer Lawrence Gordon sent director Walter Hill the screenplay for The Warriors with a copy of Sol Yurick's novel. Gordon and Hill were originally going to make a western but when the financing on the project failed to materialize, they took The Warriors to Paramount Pictures because they were interested in youth films at the time. Hill was drawn to the "extreme narrative simplicity and stripped down quality of the script". The script, as written, was a realistic take on street gangs but the director was a huge fan of comic books and wanted to divide the film into chapters and then have each chapter "come to life starting with a splash panel". However, Hill was working on a low budget and a tight post-production schedule because of a fixed release date as the studio wanted to release The Warriors before a rival gang picture called The Wanderers. As a result, Hill was unable to realize this comic book look.
The filmmakers did extensive casting in New York City. Hill had screened an independent film called Madman for Sigourney Weaver to cast her in Alien and it also featured Michael Beck as the male lead. The director was impressed with Beck's performance and cast him in The Warriors. Deborah Van Valkenburgh's agent convinced the film's casting directors to see her. The filmmakers wanted to cast Tony Danza in the role of Vermin but he was cast in the sitcom Taxi and Terrence Michos was cast instead. In Yurick's book there were no white characters but, according to Hill, Paramount did not want an all black cast for "commercial reasons".
Stunt coordinator Craig R. Baxley put the cast through stunt school because Hill wanted realistic fights depicted in the film. In preparation for his role, James Remar hung out at Coney Island to find a model for his character. The entire film was shot on the streets in New York City with some interior scenes done at Astoria Studios. They would shoot from sundown to sunrise. The film quickly fell behind schedule and went over budget. While they shot in the Bronx, bricks were tossed at the crew. Actor Joel Weiss remembers that filming of his scene at Avenue A being canceled because there was a double homicide nearby. For the big meeting at the beginning of the film, Hill wanted real gang members in the scene with off duty police officers also in the crowd so that there would be no trouble.
The studio would not allow Baxley to bring any stunt men from Hollywood and he needed someone to double for the character of Cyrus so he did the stunt himself dressed as the character. Actual gang members wanted to challenge some of the cast members but were dealt with by production security. The actors playing The Warriors bonded early in the shoot, on and off the set. Originally, the character of Fox was supposed to end up with Mercy and Swan was captured by a rival gang known as the Dingos only to escape later. Actor Thomas G. Waites was fired eight weeks into principal photography for being difficult on the set and arguing with Hill. The director watched the dailies and realized that Beck and Van Valkenburgh had great chemistry. Their characters ended up together.
Originally, at the Coney Island confrontation at the end of the film, actor David Patrick Kelly wanted to use two dead pigeons but Hill did not think that would work. Kelly used three bottles instead and improvised his famous line, "Waaaaariors, come out to plaaaay". Kelly was influenced by a man he knew in downtown New York who would make fun of him. Hill wanted Orson Welles to do a narrated introduction about Greek themes but the studio did not like this idea and refused to pay for it.
The Warriors opened on February 9, 1979 in 670 theaters without advance screenings or a decent promotional campaign and grossed USD $3.5 million on its opening weekend. The following weekend the film was linked to sporadic outbreaks of vandalism and three killings - two in Southern California and one in Boston - involving moviegoers on their way to or from showings. This prompted Paramount to remove advertisements from radio and television completely and display ads in the press were reduced to the film's title, rating and participating theaters. In reaction, 200 theaters across the country added security personnel. Due to safety concerns, theater owners were relieved of their contractual obligations if they did not want to show the film, and Paramount offered to pay costs for additional security and damages due to vandalism. After two weeks free of incidents, the studio expanded the display ads to take advantage of reviews from reputable critics including Pauline Kael of The New Yorker. She wrote, "The Warriors is a real moviemaker's movie: it has in visual terms the kind of impact that 'Rock Around the Clock' did behind the titles of Blackboard Jungle. The Warriors is like visual rock". In its sixth week, The Warriors had grossed $16.4 million, well above its estimated $6–7 million budget.
A mild commercial success on its initial release, the film was panned by many critics as exploitative and superficial. Gary Arnold, in his review for the Washington Post, wrote, "None of Hill's dynamism will save The Warriors from impressing most neutral observers as a ghastly folly". In his review for Newsweek, David Ansen wrote, "Another problem arises when the gang members open their mouths: their banal dialogue is jarringly at odds with Hill's hyperbolic visual scheme". Frank Rich, in his review for Time, wrote, "Unfortunately, sheer visual zip is not enough to carry the film; it drags from one scuffle to the next . . . But The Warriors is not lively enough to be cheap fun or thoughtful enough to be serious". Yurick expressed his disappointment in the film version and speculated that it scared some people because "it appeals to the fear of a demonic uprising by lumpen youth", and appealed to many teenagers because it "hits a series of collective fantasies". President Ronald Reagan was a fan of the film, even calling the film's lead actor, Michael Beck, to tell him he had screened it at Camp David and enjoyed it.
The Warriors has acquired the status of a cult film, along with a re-examination of its standing with some film critics. As of April 22, 2011, the film has garnered a 94% "fresh" rating at Rotten Tomatoes. At Seattle’s Grand Illusion Cinema, programmer Zack Carlson remembers, “people were squeezed in, lying on the floor, cheering". Entertainment Weekly named The Warriors the 16th greatest cult film on their "Top 50 Greatest Cult Films" list. The magazine also ranked it 14th in the list of the "25 Most Controversial Movies Ever".
In 2005, Paramount Home Video released the "Ultimate Director's Cut" DVD of The Warriors. Aside from a remastered picture quality and a new 5.1 surround remixed soundtrack, the film has been re-edited with a new introduction and comic book-style sequences between scenes.
While itself adapted from a novel, the film has been adapted into a number of other products as well. The film's soundtrack was released in the same year as the film. In 2005, Mezco Toyz released Warriors action figures, including Swan, Cleon, Cochise, Ajax, Luther, and a Baseball Fury.
The Warriors video game, based on the movie, was released by Rockstar Games on October 17, 2005. Levels 1 through 13 acts as a prequel to the film, creating backstory and elaborating on the characters from the film. Levels 14 through 18 recreates much of the film's events. Several of the actors from the movie returned to perform the voices for their original characters.
Warner Bros. Entertainment released a downloadable title for the Xbox 360 titled The Warriors: Street Brawl.The game plays differently from the Rockstar Games version, being a side-scrolling brawler. In 2009, Dabel Brothers Productions began a five issue comic book adaption of the film. Following that is a four issue mini series entitled The Warriors: Jail Break which takes place several months after the film.
In 2008, Tony Scott announced a remake of The Warriors. Scott announced that the remake will take place in Los Angeles rather than New York where the original film took place. Of the remake, Scott stated, "The original Warriors was New York in the '70s, and everything went upwards, everything went vertically. And now I'm making it a contemporary thing and doing it in L.A., so everything is horizontal. So my vision of The Warriors is Los Angeles in 2007 and the gangs, instead of being 30, are going to be 3,000 or 5,000." Scott met with actual gang members, including Bloods and Crips, for research.
- Ducker, Eric (October 3, 2005). "New York Mythology". Fader. class="reference-accessdate">. Retrieved 2008-09-28.
- Arnold, Gary (March 18, 1979). "The Warriors - Surly Kids Pack a Box-Office Wallop". Washington Post.
- "The Flick of Violence". Time. March 19, 1979. class="reference-accessdate">. Retrieved 2008-09-23.
- Barra, Allen (November 28, 2005). "The Warriors Fights On". Salon.com.
- Arnold, Gary (February 10, 1979). "Abstracted Epic of Gang Warfare". Washington Post.
- Ansen, David (February 26, 1979). "Gang War". Newsweek.
- Rich, Frank (February 26, 1979). "Dead End". Time. class="reference-accessdate">. Retrieved 2008-09-23.
- Wood, Jennifer M (June 20, 2004). "Midnight Movie Madness". Moviemaker. class="reference-accessdate">. Retrieved 2009-02-13.
- The Top 50 Cult Movies
- "25 Most Controversial Movies Ever". Entertainment Weekly. August 27, 2008. class="reference-accessdate">. Retrieved 2008-08-27.
- Henderson, Eric (2005-10-18). "The Warriors - DVD Review". Slant magazine. class="reference-accessdate">. Retrieved 2011-09-29.
- Mezco Toyz | Movie, Television and Proprietary Action Figures & Collectibles
- Scott Weinberg (November 17, 2006). "Tony Scott's "Warriors" Remake is Gearing Up". Rotten Tomatoes. class="reference-accessdate">. Retrieved 22 July 2011.
- The Warriors at the Internet Movie Database
- The Warriors at AllRovi
- The Warriors at Rotten Tomatoes
- The Warriors Movie Site
- "The Warriors Trip From Coney Island to Dyre Avenue in the Bronx Revisited"
- 2006 Warriors Cast Reunion
- The Warriors NeoWiki, an external wiki
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