The Warriors (film)

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The Warriors
TheWarriors 1979 Movie Poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Walter Hill
Produced by Lawrence Gordon
Screenplay by
Based on The Warriors
by Sol Yurick
Music by Barry De Vorzon
Cinematography Andrew Laszlo
Edited by
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date
  • February 9, 1979 (1979-02-09)
Running time
92 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$4 million [1]
Box office$22.5 million [2]

The Warriors is a 1979 American action film directed by Walter Hill. It is based on Sol Yurick's 1965 novel of the same name, which was, in turn, based on Xenophon's Anabasis . The story centers on a New York City gang who must make an urban journey of 30 miles (48 km), from the north end of The Bronx to their home turf in Coney Island in southern Brooklyn, after they are framed for the murder of a respected gang leader. It was released in the United States on February 9, 1979.

Action film is a film genre in which the protagonist or protagonists are thrust into a series of events that typically include violence, extended fighting, physical feats, and frantic chases. Action films tend to feature a resourceful hero struggling against incredible odds, which include life-threatening situations, a villain, or a pursuit which usually concludes in victory for the hero. Advancements in CGI have made it cheaper and easier to create action sequences and other visual effects that required the efforts of professional stunt crews in the past. However, reactions to action films containing significant amounts of CGI have been mixed, as films that use computer animations to create unrealistic, highly unbelievable events are often met with criticism. While action has long been a recurring component in films, the "action film" genre began to develop in the 1970s along with the increase of stunts and special effects. Common action scenes in films are generally, but not limited to, explosions, car chases, fistfights, and shootouts.

Solomon "Sol" Yurick was an American novelist. He was known for his book The Warriors which became a major motion picture.

<i>The Warriors</i> (Yurick novel) 1965 book by Sol Yurick

The Warriors is a novel written by Sol Yurick and Illustrated by Frank Modell in 1965. It became the inspiration for the cult classic movie The Warriors. Compared to the movie, the novel takes a closer look at the concepts of sexuality, reputation, family, and survival.

Contents

After reports of vandalism and violence, Paramount temporarily halted their advertising campaign and released theater owners from their obligation to show the film. Despite its initially negative reception, The Warriors has since become a cult film, and it has spawned multiple spinoffs, including video games and a comic book series.

Cult film Film that has acquired a cult following

A cult film or cult movie, also commonly referred to as a cult classic, is a film that has acquired a cult following. Cult films are known for their dedicated, passionate fanbase, an elaborate subculture that engage in repeated viewings, quoting dialogue, and audience participation. Inclusive definitions allow for major studio productions, especially box office bombs, while exclusive definitions focus more on obscure, transgressive films shunned by the mainstream. The difficulty in defining the term and subjectivity of what qualifies as a cult film mirror classificatory disputes about art. The term cult film itself was first used in the 1970s to describe the culture that surrounded underground films and midnight movies, though cult was in common use in film analysis for decades prior to that.

Plot

Cyrus, leader of the Gramercy Riffs, the most powerful gang in New York City, calls a midnight summit of all the city's gangs, requesting them to send nine unarmed delegates to Van Cortlandt Park. The Warriors, from Coney Island, attend the summit. Cyrus proposes to the assembled crowd a permanent citywide truce and alliance that would allow the gangs to control the city since they outnumber the police by three to one. Most of the gangs applaud his idea, but hidden in the crowd, Luther, leader of the Rogues, shoots Cyrus dead just as the police arrive and raid the summit. In the resulting chaos, Luther frames the Warriors' leader Cleon for the murder, and Cleon is beaten down and apparently killed by the Riffs. Meanwhile, the other Warriors escape, unaware that they have been implicated in Cyrus' murder. The Riffs put out a hit on the Warriors through a radio DJ. Swan, the Warriors' "war chief", takes charge of the group as they try to make it back home.

Gramercy Park Neighborhood and park in Manhattan in New York City

Gramercy Park is the name of both a small, fenced-in private park and the surrounding neighborhood that is referred to also as Gramercy, in the New York City borough of Manhattan in New York, United States.

Van Cortlandt Park Large public park in the Bronx, New York

Van Cortlandt Park is a 1,146-acre (464 ha) park located in the borough of the Bronx in New York City. Owned by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, it is managed with assistance from the Van Cortlandt Park Alliance. The park, the city's third-largest, was named for the Van Cortlandt family, which was prominent in the area during the Dutch and English colonial periods.

Coney Island Neighborhood of Brooklyn in New York City

Coney Island is a residential and commercial neighborhood and entertainment area in the southwestern part of the borough of Brooklyn in New York City. The neighborhood is bounded by Sea Gate to its west, Brighton Beach and Manhattan Beach to its east, Lower New York Bay to the south, and Gravesend to the north. Coney Island was formerly the westernmost of the Outer Barrier islands on the southern shore of Long Island, but in the early 20th century it became a peninsula, connected to the rest of Long Island by land fill.

Almost immediately the Warriors are spotted by the Turnbull ACs who attempt to run them down with their bus, but the Warriors manage to escape and board an elevated train. On the ride to Coney Island, the train is stopped by a building fire alongside the tracks, stranding the Warriors in Tremont, in the Bronx. Setting out on foot, they come across a lower-echelon group named the Orphans who were not invited to Cyrus' meeting and who are sensitive and belligerent about their low status in the city's gang hierarchy. Swan makes peace with the Orphans' leader, Sully, who agrees to let the Warriors pass through their territory unharmed. However, a young woman named Mercy mocks Sully as a "chicken" and instigates a confrontation. Mercy's goading convinces Sully to demand that the Warriors take off their 'colors' and go as civilians before walking through their neighborhood. Swan and the Warriors flatly refuse Sully's demand, and the Orphans challenge them to a fight. Outnumbered and unarmed, Swan and the Warriors throw a Molotov cocktail at a car, blowing it up and using the opportunity to escape to the subway station. Impressed, and desperate to escape her depressed neighborhood, Mercy follows the Warriors.

Tremont, Bronx Neighborhood of the Bronx in New York City

Tremont is a residential neighborhood in the West Bronx, New York City. Its boundaries are East 181st Street to the north, Third Avenue to the east, the Cross-Bronx Expressway to the south, and the Grand Concourse to the west. East Tremont Avenue is the primary thoroughfare through Tremont.

Molotov cocktail incendiary weapon using flammable liquid in a bottle

A Molotov cocktail, also known as a petrol bomb, gasoline bomb, bottle bomb, poor man's grenade, Molotovin koktaili (Finnish), polttopullo (Finnish), fire bomb, fire bottle or just Molotov, sometimes shortened as Molly, is a generic name used for a variety of bottle-based improvised incendiary weapons. Due to the relative ease of production, Molotov cocktails have been used by street criminals, rioters, criminal gangs, urban guerrillas, terrorists, irregular soldiers, or even regular soldiers short on equivalent military-issue weapons. They are primarily intended to ignite rather than completely destroy targets, and are often used just as much to cause chaos as to actually do damage.

When they arrive at the 96th Street and Broadway station in Manhattan, they are chased by police and separated. Three of them, Vermin, Cochise, and Rembrandt, make the train to Union Square, while Fox, struggling with a police officer, falls onto the tracks and is run over by a train as Mercy escapes. Swan and the remaining three Warriors - Ajax, Snow, and Cowboy - are chased by the Baseball Furies into Riverside Park, where a brawl ensues in which the Warriors manage to outwit and defeat the swarm of attackers. After the fight, Ajax notices a lone woman named Chloe in the park, and insists on lagging behind to chat her up. He becomes sexually aggressive and is arrested when Chloe turns out to be an undercover police officer. Arriving at Union Square, Vermin, Cochise, and Rembrandt are seduced by an all-female gang called the Lizzies and invited into their hideout. The trio manages to escape the Lizzies' subsequent attack, learning in the process that everyone believes they murdered Cyrus.

Riverside Park (Manhattan) Public park in Manhattan, New York

Riverside Park is a scenic waterfront public park in the Upper West Side, Morningside Heights, and Hamilton Heights neighborhoods of the borough of Manhattan in New York City. The park consists of a narrow 4-mile (6.4 km) strip of land between the Hudson River/Henry Hudson Parkway and the serpentine Riverside Drive.

Having scouted ahead on his own, Swan returns to the 96th Street station and finds Mercy there. They're cornered by a police officer, who Swan dispatches by throwing a baseball bat at him. More police show up and Swan and Mercy flee into the tunnel. The sexual tension between the two boils over, and they have an argument - Swan spurns her and continues to Union Square where he reunites with the other Warriors. A fist-fight ensues with the Punks in a public restroom, which the Warriors win, while Mercy proves she can hold her own in the fight. Meanwhile, the Riffs are visited by a gang member who attended the earlier gathering and saw Luther shoot Cyrus.

The Warriors finally arrive at Coney Island at dawn, only to find Luther and the Rogues are waiting for them. When asked, Luther tells Swan he shot Cyrus for no reason, because he gets a thrill out of things like that. Swan challenges Luther to a one-on-one fight, but Luther pulls his gun instead. Swan dodges his shot and throws a knife into Luther's wrist, disarming him. The Riffs arrive and apprehend the Rogues, taking a moment to acknowledge the Warriors' courage and skill. As the Warriors leave, Luther screams in anguish as the Riffs descend upon the Rogues.

The radio DJ announces that the big alert has been called off and salutes the Warriors with a song, "In the City". Swan, Mercy, and the rest of the gang walk down the beach, illuminated by the rising sun.

"In the City" is a rock song written by Barry De Vorzon and Joe Walsh. It was first recorded by Walsh and released on the soundtrack for the 1979 film The Warriors. Another version of the song, recorded by Walsh's band the Eagles, was included on their album The Long Run, released the same year.

Cast

Production

Development

Film rights to Sol Yurick's novel The Warriors were bought in 1969 by American International Pictures but no film resulted. [3]

Rights were then obtained by producer Lawrence Gordon who commissioned David Shaber to write a script. Gordon had made Hard Times (1975) and The Driver (1978) with Walter Hill; he sent the script to Hill with a copy of Sol Yurick's novel. Hill recalls, "I said 'Larry, I would love to do this, but nobody will let us do it.' It was going to be too extreme and too weird." [4] [5]

Gordon and Hill were originally going to make a western but when the financing on the project failed to materialize, they took The Warriors to Paramount Pictures because they were interested in youth films at the time and succeeded in getting the project financed. Hill remembers "it came together very quickly. Larry had a special relationship with Paramount and we promised to make the movie very cheaply, which we did. So it came together within a matter of weeks. I think we got the green light in April or May 1978 and we were in theaters in February 1979. So it was a very accelerated process." [6]

Hill was drawn to the "extreme narrative simplicity and stripped down quality of the script". [5] The script, as written, was a realistic take on street gangs but Hill was a huge fan of comic books and wanted to divide the film into chapters and then have each chapter "come to life starting with a splash panel". [5] However, Hill was working on a low budget and a tight post-production schedule because of a fixed release date as the studio wanted to release The Warriors before a rival gang picture called The Wanderers . Hill was finally able to include this type of scene transition in the Ultimate Director's Cut released for home video in 2005. [5]

Casting

The filmmakers did extensive casting in New York City. [5] Hill had screened an independent film called Madman for Sigourney Weaver to cast her in Alien and it also featured Michael Beck as the male lead. The director was impressed with Beck's performance and cast him in The Warriors. Hill initially wanted a Puerto Rican actress for the role of Mercy, but Deborah Van Valkenburgh's agent convinced the film's casting directors to see her and she was eventually cast. The filmmakers wanted to cast Tony Danza in the role of Vermin but he was cast in the sitcom Taxi and Terry Michos was cast instead. While there were white characters in Yurick's book, none of the central characters or protagonists were white: according to Hill, Paramount did not want an all-black cast for "commercial reasons". [5]

Thomas G. Waites was cast as director Walter Hill's James Dean, and the director "invited the young actor to the Gulf and Western to watch movies like Rebel Without a Cause and East of Eden for inspiration." [7] During the screening, Hill offered Waites a drink, which Waites refused, resulting in a rift between the two that grew worse during the grueling summer shoot. At one point, Waites threatened to report the working conditions to the Screen Actors Guild, forcing Paramount to provide a second trailer for the eight Warriors to share. [7]

Finally, after eight weeks into principal photography, when the tension on set between Waites and Hill reached the breaking point, Hill demanded that stunt coordinator Craig Baxley improvise a stunt scene in which Waites' character would be killed. "Stunned, Baxley demurred. Such a critical scene would take careful planning. But Hill was insistent. 'I don't give a shit how you kill him,' Baxley recalls the director saying. 'Kill him.'" Baxley found a crew member who resembled Waites and staged a scene in which the character is thrown off a subway platform in front of an approaching train. “It was like someone cut my soul out and left a shell,” Waites remembers. He would later demand that his name be removed from the cast altogether; he remains uncredited to this day. [7]

Filming

Stunt coordinator Craig R. Baxley put the cast through stunt school because Hill wanted realistic fights depicted in the film. [5] In preparation for his role, James Remar hung out at Coney Island to find a model for his character. The entire film was shot on the streets in New York City with some interior scenes done at Astoria Studios. They would shoot from sundown to sunrise. The film quickly fell behind schedule and went over budget. While they shot in the Bronx, bricks were tossed at the crew. Actor Joel Weiss remembers that filming of his scene at Avenue A was canceled because there was a double homicide nearby. For the big meeting at the beginning of the film, Hill wanted real gang members in the scene with off duty police officers also in the crowd so that there would be no trouble. [5]

The studio would not allow Baxley to bring any stunt men from Hollywood and he needed someone to double for the character of Cyrus so he did the stunt himself dressed as the character. [5] Actual gang members wanted to challenge some of the cast members but were dealt with by production security. The actors playing The Warriors bonded early in the shoot, on and off the set. Originally, the character of Fox was supposed to end up with Mercy, while Swan was captured by a rival, homosexual gang known as the Dingos, only to escape later: however, Hill watched the dailies and realized that Beck and Van Valkenburgh had great chemistry; the script was rewritten so that their characters ended up together. [5]

The Rogues' car in the Coney Island confrontation was a 1955 Cadillac hearse. [8] Originally, at the Coney Island confrontation at the end of the film, actor David Patrick Kelly wanted to use two dead pigeons but Hill did not think that would work. [5] Instead, Kelly improvised by clinking three bottles in his right hand and ad-libbing his famous line, "Waaaaarriors, come out to plaaaay". Kelly was influenced by a man he knew in downtown New York who would make fun of him. Hill wanted Orson Welles to do a narrated introduction about Greek themes but the studio did not like this idea and refused to pay for it. [5] However, this sequence was finally included in the 2005 Ultimate Director's Cut, with Hill providing the narration himself.

"I wanted to take it into a fantasy element, but at the same time add some contemporary flash," said Hill. "Those were some of the hard ideas we had to get the studio to understand. But we did not get along very well with our parent company. After the movie came out and it did well, everybody was sort of friends. But up until then there was a lot of misunderstanding. They thought it was going to be Saturday Night Fever or something." [6]

Release

Theatrical run

The Warriors opened on February 9, 1979, in 670 theatres without advance screenings or a decent promotional campaign and grossed USD $3.5 million on its opening weekend. [9]

Violence at screenings

The following weekend the film was linked to sporadic outbreaks of vandalism and three killings — two in Southern California and one in Boston — involving moviegoers on their way to or from showings. [10]

This prompted Paramount to remove advertisements from radio and television completely and display ads in the press were reduced to the film's title, rating and participating theaters. [9] In reaction, 200 theaters across the country added security personnel. Due to safety concerns, theater owners were relieved of their contractual obligations if they did not want to show the film, and Paramount offered to pay costs for additional security and damages due to vandalism. [11]

Hill later reflected, "I think the reason why there were some violent incidents is really very simple: The movie was very popular with the street gangs, especially young men, a lot of whom had very strong feelings about each other. And suddenly they all went to the movies together! They looked across the aisle and there were the guys they didn't like, so there were a lot of incidents. And also, the movie itself is rambunctious — I would certainly say that." [6]

Reception

Box office

After two weeks free of incidents, the studio expanded the display ads to take advantage of reviews from reputable critics including Pauline Kael of The New Yorker . She wrote, "The Warriors is a real moviemaker's movie: it has in visual terms the kind of impact that 'Rock Around the Clock' did behind the titles of Blackboard Jungle . The Warriors is like visual rock." [12] At Seattle's Grand Illusion Cinema, programmer Zack Carlson remembers, "people were squeezed in, lying on the floor, cheering." [13] By its sixth week, The Warriors had grossed $16.4 million, well above its estimated $4 million [1] to $7 million budget. [9] [14]

Hill later reflected:

What made it a success with young people... is that for the first time somebody made a film within Hollywood, big distribution, that took the gang situation and did not present it as a social problem. Presented them as a neutral or positive aspect of their lives. As soon as you said in the old days gang movies it was how do we cure the pestilence and how do we fix the social waste. We want to take these kids, make sure they go to college... This was just a movie that conceptually was different. Accepted the idea of the gang, didn't question it, that was their lives, they functioned within that context. And the social problem wasn't were they going to college, but were they going to survive. It's the great Hawksian dictum, where is the drama? Will he live or die? That's the drama. [4]

"Hollywood forgives a lot when you have a hit," he added. "I don't know what to say about it, other than the fact that it was just a gift in terms of getting it. The studio hated it, and didn't even want to release it. There was a lot of friction with management at the time. Some of it might have been my fault." [15]

Critical reception

The Warriors received negative reviews from contemporary critics, who derided its lack of realism and found its dialogue stilted. [16] In his review for the Chicago Sun-Times , Roger Ebert gave it two out of four stars and wrote that, despite Hill's cinematic skill, the film is implausible in a mannerist style that deprives the characters of depth and spontaneity: "No matter what impression the ads give, this isn't even remotely intended as an action film. It's a set piece. It's a ballet of stylized male violence." [17] However, Ebert later wrote during a review of Hill's film Southern Comfort that he felt he overlooked some positive qualities in The Warriors out of his dislike for Hill's general approach to broad characterizations. [18] Gene Siskel gave the film one star out of four, likening the dialogue to that of "Harvey Lembeck in those silly '60s motorcycle pictures" and concluding, "You would think after watching 'The Warriors' that gang membership was a victimless crime, save for the occasional sadist who pops up as comic relief. This entire film is a romantic lie." [19]

Linda Gross of the Los Angeles Times called the film "an inciteful, stylized and shallow portrayal of gang warfare that panders to angry youthful audiences." [20] Gary Arnold of The Washington Post wrote, "None of Hill's dynamism will save The Warriors from impressing most neutral observers as a ghastly folly." [21] In his review for Newsweek , David Ansen wrote, "Another problem arises when the gang members open their mouths: their banal dialogue is jarringly at odds with Hill's hyperbolic visual scheme." [22] Frank Rich of Time wrote that, "unfortunately, sheer visual zip is not enough to carry the film; it drags from one scuffle to the next ... The Warriors is not lively enough to be cheap fun or thoughtful enough to be serious." [23] Yurick expressed his disappointment and speculated that it scared some people because "it appeals to the fear of a demonic uprising by lumpen youth," appealing to many teenagers because it "hits a series of collective fantasies." [9] President Ronald Reagan was a fan of the film, even calling the film's lead actor, Michael Beck, to tell him he had screened it at Camp David and enjoyed it. [12]

Cult status

The Warriors has become a cult film, and some film critics have since re-examined it. As of December 1, 2017, the film has garnered an 89% approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes based on 37 reviews. [24]

Entertainment Weekly named it the 16th-greatest cult film on their "Top 50 Greatest Cult Films" list. [25] The magazine also ranked it 14th in the list of the "25 Most Controversial Movies Ever." [26]

Hill reflected in 2016:

I love the fact that people still enjoy something I did what, 37 years ago? It makes an old man happy. I'm surprised by it. But I loved working with my cameraman Andy Laszlo in shooting it, and I loved working with my cast, who were incredibly trusting of this crazy old fucker that was making the movie. They didn't get it, I don't think — costumed gangs running around New York? — but they just went with it. [15]

Home video

The film was first released on VHS in the 1980s and 1990s and DVD in 2001. The DVD contained the theatrical cut unrestored; this release has since fallen out of print. Then, in 2005, Paramount Home Video released the "Ultimate Director's Cut" DVD of The Warriors. In addition to remastered picture quality and a new 5.1 surround remixed soundtrack, the film was re-edited with a new introduction and comic book-style sequences between scenes. [27] In July 2007, the "Ultimate Director's Cut" was released on Blu-ray and has since been available for online streaming rentals and purchases through Amazon, Apple's iTunes Store and Vudu. [28] The original theatrical cut is also available to stream in HD on those same services but is not currently available on DVD or Blu-ray in the U.S.

Soundtrack

The film's soundtrack, featuring music by Barry De Vorzon, Joe Walsh, and others, was released on the A&M label in March 1979.

In other media

Merchandise

In 2005, Mezco Toyz released Warriors action figures, including Swan, Cleon, Cochise, Ajax, Luther, and a Baseball Fury. [29]

The Warriors video game, based on the movie, was released by Rockstar Games on October 17, 2005. Levels 1 through 13 act as a prequel to the film, creating backstory and elaborating on the characters from the film. Levels 14 through 18 recreate much of the film's events. In addition, there are extra levels explaining how each main character joined the gang. Several of the actors from the film returned to perform the voices for their original characters.

Warner Bros. Entertainment released a downloadable title for the Xbox 360 titled The Warriors: Street Brawl . The game plays differently from the Rockstar Games version, being a side-scrolling brawler.

In 2005, Roger Hill, the actor who portrayed Cyrus, sued Rockstar Games and Take-Two Interactive for royalty fees, claiming the video game used his voice and depiction of his likeness without his consent or paying him royalties. Take-Two asserted its claims that the voice and likeness of Cyrus were a component of its licensing agreement for the film. Hill died in 2014 and the outcome of the case is unknown. [30]

Remake

Tony Scott had planned a remake of the film. In an interview in 2005, Scott said that the remake would be set in modern-day New York City; gangs such as the Baseball Furies and Hi-Hats would not be included in the remake. [31] [32] After the death of Scott, Mark Neveldine has showed interest in directing a remake. [33]

Television series

In July 2016, Joe and Anthony Russo announced they were working with Paramount Television and Hulu for a re-imagined Warriors TV series; Frank Baldwin was signed on to write the series. [34]

See also

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References

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