“Let’s get down to it Boppers . . .”
Hundreds of gangs from all of New York’s five boroughs show up for a summit at the Bronx Zoo, where Cyrus (Roger Hill) is holding a meeting.
He dreams of uniting all the gangs in a bid to take over the city – or as he puts it, “We have the streets suckas . . . can you dig it?”. The dream is shattered by an assassin’s bullet.
A gang called The Warriors is wrongly accused of murdering Cyrus, and what follows is a plotline worthy of a video game as the gang must travel all the way from the Bronx Zoo to their home turf of Coney Island without being eliminated by the rival gangs.
Each gang has their own strengths, weaknesses and ‘theme’ – there are guys in greasepaint and baseball uniforms, zoot suits, skinheads . . . even mimes! The baseball-themed gang is called The Furies and a siren-esque all-female gang is known as The Lizzies.
The Warriors hold their own in several extremely well-choreographed fight scenes, including one in a subway station bathroom that reportedly took a week to film.
It’s a modern adaptation of The Odyssey wherein a Greek army had to make a difficult journey home from a foreign land.
Swan (Michael Beck) is The Warriors’ hardened leader. He is cold, calculating, and only shows faint traces of emotion. Ajax (James Remar), the number two, has many of the same attributes but is a little more raw and brutal.
The villain, Luther (David Patrick Kelly) is just plain psychotic. When members of his own gang (The Rogues) question his motives, he responds simply; “I just like doing stuff like that”.
Lynne Thigpen appears intermittently as a radio DJ who imparts information to the gangs tracking The Warriors and serves as a foxy one-woman Greek chorus.
The Warriors has a cool, reluctant relationship to violence. These are not fights The Warriors want or even deserve. Likewise, you cannot vilify the rival gangs, as they think The Warriors are guilty of cold-blooded murder.
This is not a movie about fighting but surviving. It’s not about glorifying violence, it’s simply about getting home.
It all ends with vindication at daybreak in Coney Island: “You Warriors are good. Real good”.
Finally, it goes out with our foxy DJ: “The earlier reports were wrong, all wrong. Sorry about that. And for that group that had such a hard time getting home tonight, I guess all we can do is play you a song”.
The Warriors was inspired by the Battle of Cunaxa in 401 BC when a leader named Cyrus the Younger led an army of Greek soldiers called “The Ten Thousand” into enemy territory against the Persian Army (which reportedly numbered over a million-strong).
Cyrus was killed in battle leaving his men stranded deep inside enemy territory with no sanctuary and no supplies. Clearchus, a Spartan general, assumed command of the Greek survivors who fought superior numbers all the way back to their homeland.
Thomas G Waites
Deborah Van Valkenburgh
David Patrick Kelly