The Warriors

The Warriors

3.5 out of 5 3.5 out of 5 3.5 out of 5 3.5 out of 5 3.5

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Just what is the fanboys’ beef with the new DVD “Director’s Cut” of The Warriors, anyway? Walter Hill’s cult 1979 adaptation of novelist Sol Yurick’s grungy take on Xenophon’s Anabasis—in short, a Coney Island gang tries to escape the Bronx by night after they’re wrongly accused of killing the head of the most influential NY gang, a messianic figure named Cyrus who intended to unite all of the city’s gangs and overthrow the police force—was always about as close to street gang realism as West Side Story, regardless of the incidents of urban violence that accompanied the film’s original release. (And, by my count, more main characters die violently in the musical.) So now that he’s taken the opportunity to insert a few Creepshow-esque comic-book linking segues to stress the film’s dystopic gothic fantasy, the same demographic that undoubtedly didn’t even think twice when purchasing the extended, extra-bloated Lord of the Rings bookshelf set (roughly the girth of the Encyclopedia Brittanica) suddenly scrounges up their ethical faculties to howl about the desecration of the “original work”? I don’t buy it. My guess is simply that Hill’s vibrant, “sez you” actioneer strikes full-grown little boys right in the socket. They grew up with this film, watched it with their own suburban posses at guys-only sleepovers (where the first guy to mistakenly use the phrase “slumber party” gets fag-tagged and headlocked) and processed the “I Heart New York”-era milieu as something of a lost world where you could walk through Central Park at night and own the place. Maybe even run into Tony Manero and his prom date on the subway, where you’d finally get the chance to stare his polyester-wearing, disco-dancing ass down and reclaim your masculinity. But Hill’s re-edit, even keeping the reupholstered segues to a bare minimum as he does, upsets that delicate balance. It deliberately inverts the original’s propulsion from youth toward manhood and brings it all back to the realm of an adolescent’s reverie of a healthy street life without parents and where no one will call the police whenever you steal food from corner stands. To understand the wrath of The Warriors’ core fan base, tell a fan of Batman Begins that you prefer the knowingly ridiculous zing-pow of the 1966 Adam West feature film and see how he (and I do mean he) reacts. In his attempt to undercut some of the original edit’s rakish, punk thrills, Hill’s instincts are entirely correct, even if they inadvertently deny the fact that Andrew Lazlo’s bold-hued cinematography already showcases vivid, tightly framed ersatz splash panels. Because Hill’s characters, with the exception of Ajax (James Remar) and his love for the epithet “faggot,” typically choose flight over fight. In other words, it’s a comic book that acts like most of its own readers probably would if they were thrown into the same situation.

Buy
DVD
Distributor
Paramount Pictures
Runtime
93 min
Rating
R
Year
1979
Director
Walter Hill
Screenwriter
Walter Hill, David Shaber
Cast
Michael Beck, James Remar, Dorsey Wright, Brian Tyler, David Harris, Tom McKitterick, Marcelino Sánchez, Terry Michos, Deborah Van Valkenburgh, Roger Hill, David Patrick Kelly, Lynne Thigpen