Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Gang Fight.

Today we delve into the gritty, grimy world of the gang land. It's a movie that, I assume, not many of you have seen or even heard of. I hadn't until a few days ago when it was recommended to me by a friend (@JLHoyte on Twitter if you want to follow him, he's very funny) The movie was made in 1979 and is the very definition of a Cult Movie. This is The Warriors.

The premise is an extremely simple one. All the gangs of New York send nine representatives to a huge gang gathering in The Bronx hosted by Cyrus (Roger Hill), the leader of the largest gang in New York. Cyrus proposes that all the gangs unite and take over the city as they outnumber the cops. However, despite most of the gangs seeming to 'dig it', Luther (David Patrick Kelley), leader of the Rogues, assassinates Cyrus while no one is looking. Unfortunately for him, Fox (Thomas G. Waites), the scout for The Warriors, witnesses the whole thing. Luther tries to kill him too but the police have secretly surrounded the gathering and blind the gangs with spotlights. Chaos erupts and the gangs flee. Luther realises that he'll have to stop The Warriors before they reveal who shot Cyrus and so he frames Cleon (Dorsey Wright), leader of The Warriors. Cyrus' gang then want all of The Warriors in their grasp. This leaves The Warriors in the very difficult situation of getting back to their territory in Coney Island from The Bronx without getting killed by every gang and cop on the way.

There's a moment you know you're fucked.

There is something extremely lovable about this movie. There are some glimpses of great acting, particularly from Roger Hill as Cyrus and James Remar as Ajax, one of The Warriors. Hill is wonderful. His spell binding speech is some of the first dialogue in the movie and it pulls you in with every word. It also invites you to use his catch phrase, CAN YOU DIG IT. Remar is the slightly sociopathic member of The Warriors. Violence, rape, these are his games. He plays the part with such conviction that you really would not want to meet him down a dark alley at night. The final mention for acting, and the best acting in the movie, goes to David Patrick Kelley, who plays Luther. Luther is a rare type of character. Similar to the likes of The Joker or Alex DeLarge, he simply does things that he feels like. Kelley puts a raw, unsettled nature into his character which makes him generally disturbing. Especially his part in the climatic scene. Is really creepy and really well acted.

'Stop being such a whiny beach.'

The best thing about this movie is by far its style. It is slightly surreal in its portrayal of gangs. Rather than the low trouser wearing, gun wielding, ghetto raised gangsters or Italian mob families that we are so accustomed to, these gangs all have a distinctive, and often quirky, 'mark.' Something that distinguishes them as a gang. This goes from vests, all the way to clown baseball players. The location, style and way of shooting looks like it may well be inspired by A Clockwork Orange but it does work to great effect. My main issue with this movie is it does seem very dated now. While it is constantly tense, the language, clothing and general attitudes are things of the past. It is definitely from the 'funk' era. It also contains plenty of mediocre acting as well as the good acting. A very generic score and way too often I found myself unable to tell characters apart. 

This does not bring the movie down as a whole. The fight seems, while sometimes are a bit messy, are really fun to watch and you really feel for The Warriors in all this bad luck. It is a fun film that is full of twists and turned that will keep you entertained for 90 minutes. You will hold your breath and you will be shocked. Can you dig it?

Best bit? Personally, I really enjoyed the fight scenes in the field with baseball clowns (The Baseball Furies) and in the bathroom with roller skaters (The Punks). 

1 comment:

  1. You nailed it. David Patrick Kelley, as Luther, is amazing. I can't believe he didn't work more, but a whole lot of actors did their best, and sometimes, only, work in this movie. That has to be credited to Walter Hill, a seriously under-rated director. Another under-rated performance is by Deborah Van Valkenburgh who is startlingly credible as the bruised and vulnerable Latina, Mercy.

    Dated? Yeah, but it still sings.

    Thanks, Lou Mathews