The Warriors

The Warriors

Director: Walter Hill

I have never understood the point of gangs. Violently defending an area of land that is not yours to begin with strikes me as rather absurd. While Walter Hill’s 1979 cult classic The Warriors doesn’t convince me of gangs’ validity, I doubt that a cooler vision of the concept has ever been created.

This cult action masterpiece tells the story of a New York City dominated by hundreds of different gangs. However, these are not the gangs we know. There are no Bloods or Crips to be seen; instead, these gangs are all fabulously stylised … and themed. (For example, The Baseball Furies all dress in baseball uniforms and paint variations of sports makeup on their faces as they beat the crap out of people with baseball bats.) The story follows a small but growing gang from Coney Island, The Warriors, as they attend a meeting called by the most powerful gang in New York, the Gramercy Riffs.

The Warriors doesn’t live on in the hearts and minds of its fans because of its emotions or character depth, but rather because of its all-encompassing and ever present stylisation. Every element of Hill’s film oozes with a distinct style that acts as both a pastiche and parody of 1970s American culture.

Aside from each gang’s clear idiosyncrasies, there is also the stilted and unnatural manner of speaking. Although it takes a moment to adjust to, this speaking style lends itself to some of the most magnificent speeches in cinematic history. The speech delivered by Cyrus, leader of the Gramercy Riffs, is probably my favourite of all time. Watch it once and you will want to add the phrase “CAN YOU DIG IT?” to the end of any proposition.

Walter Hill has had a hand in creating many cinematic hits, including the Alien saga. For many, however, The Warriors remains his greatest achievement. This is a film that, through its vibrant and distinct style, tells an age-old tale in a truly unique way.
This article first appeared in Issue 26, 2013.
Posted 4:26pm Sunday 6th October 2013 by Baz Macdonald.