Critical Kemp

Warriors come out and play

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SIDE “B” RECOS

These are specialty Critical Kemp below the radar recommendations, that may have slipped past the regular theater circuit, or were in limited release – but are must sees for the Rollin crew.

The Warriors

(Avail on DVD)   I’ll go out on a limb and say I doubt any of the movies we review from here on in will have had the social significance of “The Warriors”, which is also why this movie remains a side “B” pick.  This isn’t a side “B” movie because it was in limited release or low on the radar, it’s actually cause many movie channels now refuse to show it.  Many of us will have been too young to have read this first hand in the papers back in ’79, but “The Warriors” did such a solid job, albeit unintentional, of glorifying gang life – that real gang banger activity spiked after this movie in a way that wasn’t seen again until the days of the Rodney King verdicts.  This is one of those rare pieces of artwork that had a direct impact on society at the time.  In the same league as the 1930s “War of the Worlds” radio broadcast by Orson Wells, where everyone thought the alien takeover news reports were legitimate, “The Warriors” movie directly caused an escalation in inner New York City gang fighting, and eventually some people were killed.  In later years, when “Colors” came out (Sean Penn and Robert Duvall) about LA warfare between the Crips and the Bloods, picketers held up signs in front of movie theaters that read: “Remember the Warriors”.  All due respect to the fact that people were hurt, the movie is epic, and deserves to be rediscovered.

The first thing “The Warriors” had going for it from the start was Walter Hill got a shot to direct it.  This guy starts his career writing movies for Steve McQueen, and his first script, “The Getaway” ends up being directed by Sam Peckinpah.  That’s like being baptized in whisky piss and turpentine by the movie gods. 3 years later, after “The Warriors”, Hill goes on to discover Eddy Murphy in “48 Hours”, Eddie’s his first film – so you get the sense this guy Hill knows what he is doin.  Also worthy of mention is that Hill casts James Remar as both Ajax in “Warriors” and as the bad guy Gantz in “48 Hours”. Remar plays wise-ass tough guy real well – he’s one of the few bad guys you enjoy enough to end up even rooting for him. Even cooler about James is the stories he tells in AA about film industry afterparties in the early 80s.  If you’re a 12 stepper, grab a meeting on the west side in Manhattan sometime.  My buddy Diesel said he’s a regular up there and you can catch him almost daily.

But that’s enough behind the scenes.  Watch the link and you be the judge – here’s the premise:  A Coney Island gang goes to the Bronx, where the entire network of city gangs from all 5 burrows converge and are set to unite under one flag.  At the meeting, the leader of Manhattan’s largest gang – The Riffs – is shot and the Warriors are framed for his murder.  The rest of the movie is simple. 15 guys, the surviving Warriors, have to “bop their way back” fighting cops, street freaks and every other gang-banger in New York from the north of the Bronx to the southern end of NYC; Coney Island.  Making the trek even harder is that all the while their movement is tracked and locations reported over the radio by a late-night AM smooth jazz announcer.  All you see of her throughout the movie is a tight shot of her big black-lady lips on the microphone, which is awesome.  If there is a single scene in this movie that isn’t cool or doesn’t make you want to put on your colors and walk through enemy territory, I have yet to find it.  Rollin Approved.

– Critical Kemp   Kemp@RollinSD.com

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