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A battle of gigantic proportions is looming in the neon underground of New York City. The armies of the night number 100,000; they outnumber the police 5 to 1; and tonight they're all after the Warriors -- a street gang blamed unfairly for a rival gang leader's death.
For more about The Warriors and the The Warriors Blu-ray release, see the The Warriors Blu-ray Review published by Casey Broadwater on July 2, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Director: Walter Hill
Writers: Walter Hill, David Shaber
Starring: Michael Beck, James Remar, David Patrick Kelly, Thomas G. Waites, Deborah Van Valkenburgh, Dorsey Wright
» See full cast & crew
The Warriors Blu-ray Review
"Can you dig it?"
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, July 2, 2009
I like to think I'm a nice guy, so I'd like to present, for your amusement, three steps to an enjoyable, laugh-filled evening: 1. Invite over three or four of your funniest friends. 2. Have a case of cold beer at the ready. 3. Pop in The Warriors and let loose with the MST3K-style remarks. There are certain films that I like to watch alone, certain films that close me off inside their hermetically sealed worlds, but The Warriors is not one of those films. Director Walter Hill's camp, comic-bookish, cult classic demands to be watched with a group, preferably one that can take the film for what it is—a fun but dated romp through New York City's boroughs. With its cartoonish violence and way over-the-top costuming, it's hard now to imagine that The Warriors was controversial in 1979, and harder still to believe that the film spurred three killings and numerous acts of vandalism in the week following its release. Then again, we live in an age when gang violence has been largely overshadowed by white-collar crime, leaving The Warriors looking like a strange relic from a barbarically hyperbolized past.
The titular Warriors are a vaguely Native-American themed gang in an exaggerated New York that has been overrun by hundreds of other flamboyantly attired posses. The film opens with a massive rally staged by ambitious kingpin Cyrus (Roger Hill), leader of the city's biggest crew, The Gramercy Riffs. Cyrus has a grand plan to unite New York's gangs under a single anarchic banner and overtake the city. In the middle of his impassioned speech, however, Cyrus gets gunned down by Luther (David Patrick Kelly), the nihilistic leader of a rival gang, The Rogues. Luther pins the murder on The Warriors and suddenly our feather-haired heroes are trapped miles behind enemy lines. If the story sounds familiar, it's because it's loosely based on ancient Greek writer Xenophon's epic story Anabasis, about a Spartan general caught deep in Persian territory. Not ringing any bells? Anyway, The Warriors, led by Swan (Michael Beck), hotfoot it home to Coney Island, picking up Bronx trollop Mercy (Deborah Van Valkenburgh) along the way and trading fisticuffs with a handful of gangs that are out to get them.
It was never Walter Hill's intention to create a realistic film, and though he says The Warriors is inspired by a comic book sensibility, modern eyes will likely see videogame parallels in the film's run-fight-run plot, which takes the characters through progressive "levels" of New York neighborhoods, each culminating in what amounts to a boss fight. If you're looking for a down and dirty bit of the old ultraviolence though, be forewarned. It's quick paced, but for a film about so-called warriors there's actually not a lot of violence, and the few battles we do see are pretty tame affairs that would barely look out of place in Westside Story. In fact, for the majority of the film, we see our heroes calling their adversaries wimps (or worse) and then promptly running away. The film could easily be called The Sprinters and no one would be the wiser.
The film's biggest issue, however, is that it constantly sets up intriguing premises that go unfulfilled. Going blind into The Warriors and seeing Cyrus' speech, you would initially think the movie would be about a bad-ass uprising of the city's gangs, systematically overthrowing each district by going head-to-head with the woefully outnumbered cops. What we get instead are a bunch of lightweights fleeing the scene. There's also an interesting power struggle between Swan and Ajax (James Remar) early in the film, but this dynamic is quickly abandoned when Ajax assaults a woman and gets hauled off by the cops. Characters are routinely abandoned or undeveloped, and one is even thrown in front of a speeding train as a way of writing him out of the script.
Still, there's a lot of fun to be had in watching The Warriors, especially if you're the kind who likes to crack jokes at the film's expense. There are whole scenes that are flat out unintentionally hilarious, like the gang leader on roller skates that's supposed to be trailing Swan ominously. I mean, is there anything less intimidating than a man on roller skates? What is he going to do, deliver Swan a burger? Between the ridiculous costumes and the deliciously cringe- worthy one-liners, the film revels in a kooky insanity that the actors play with poker-faced seriousness. It's the perfect recipe for a guys-night style film, and in that, The Warriors doesn't disappoint.
The Warriors Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Warriors appear in all their sinewy glory thanks to a surprisingly sharp and clean 1080p, AVC-encoded transfer. Honestly, I wasn't expecting a film of this age and caliber to look so good. When you think 1970's New York cinema, a gritty level of grain instantly leaps to mind, but The Warriors has a very smooth image, even in dark scenes, and yet shows no signs of over-the-top DNR. The print itself has been cleaned up magnificently, as I don't think I noticed a single speck or stain. Contrast is strong throughout, and black levels are appreciably inky, while only occasionally crushing detail. This gives the film a vivid sense of depth that never stopped drawing me in. Colors too are well saturated, especially in some of the out-of-focus neon lights, and flesh tones, while wavering a bit here and there, are healthy and natural. I was also pleasantly bowled over by the film's sharpness, as each ridiculous costume, each tightly coiled 'fro, and every wannabe tough guy face is crisply defined. My only real complaint is that the comic book-style interludes that were added for this director's cut are a bit too digital looking, and perhaps would've fared better and matched the film more if they had been hand drawn. No biggie though. It's not HD demo material, but The Warriors look stunning in their upgrade to Blu-ray.
The Warriors Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Limping out of the city with a meager Dolby Digital 5.1 track, it's clear that The Warriors could use some audio muscle. The sound isn't bad, but portions of the film have a hollow, anemic quality that's hard to ignore. Check out the big rally scene, for instance. With thousands of gang members present, all hustling and bustling, the sound is unfortunately thin and unconvincing. While the film has a fairly wide stereo pan across the front channels, the rears pine away from under-use, offering only a few panned effects and bleeding ambience. The bass slides in more often than I'd expected, but certain high-end sound effects have a brittle quality. Voices too are thin at times, and there were a few instances, on the subway in particular, when the actors are almost drowned out by ambient noise. The audio does kick it up a notch whenever Barry De Vorzon's synth-rock score is present though, and certain themes reminded me heavily of Goblin's work on Romero's Dawn of the Dead. Oh, the early days of the synthesizer. Overall, the track isn't the greatest, but it represents the film and its source material relatively well.
The Warriors Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
This Blu-ray edition of The Warriors is identical to the Ultimate Director's Cut DVD in terms of supplements. All features, except the theatrical trailer, are presented in standard definition.
First up is a brief, one minute introduction to the director's cut by director Walter Hill, in which he expresses how this version of The Warriors fits the intentions he had for the film while shooting. This intro is also permanently affixed to the front of the film, so I'm not sure whey they thought to include it separately.
The bulk off of the bonus features is then comprised of a 62-minute documentary by Laurent Bouzereau that's broken into four sections. The Beginning (14:07) details the origins of the story, with anecdotes by the cast and crew about how they got involved in the project. Battleground (15:24) is mostly concerned with the filming process, along with technical insights by cinematographer Andrew Lazslo. The Way Home (18:09) is an examination of the choreographed fight scenes and bizarre costuming, and The Phenomenon (15:23) features the editing and scoring processes, a proposed narration by Orson Welles, and some of the controversies inherent in the film's release.
Last up is the original theatrical trailer, which, while presented in 1080p, is noticeably scratched, beaten and bruised.
The Warriors Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Who would've thought The Warriors could look so good? This Blu-ray release stands bandana- wrapped head and brawny bare shoulders above its DVD counterpart, and I have no problems recommending it to anyone looking for some shallow but entertaining fun. So grab a few friends, pop a few bottle caps, and let the good times roll.
The Warriors: Other Editions
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