Saturday, September 6, 2014

Instant Action: The Warriors (1979)

That’s a lot of colorful gangs, literally!

Screenplay By: Walter Hill & David Shaber
Directed By: Walter Hill

Young men; sweat flowing from their pores, dirt on their bodies, and venom in their veins. Those are the characters in The Warriors. They may be from the future, the past, or the present. They have no time because they inhabit a masculine place that is timeless. The street toughs we meet in The Warriors are the summation of what it means to be a man, what it once meant to be a man, and the fear of the future man.

As the men of The Warriors sweat, attempt rape, and try to murder one another the viewer can only sit and watch. They are so powerful in their masculinity that we are helpless to stop them in their actions. We are forced to watch, there’s no hope of turning away from the onslaught of their manliness. It’s not easy to watch at times, even if it is always oddly exhilarating. Their fights enchant, their attempts to woo women are boorish, and the way they dress is mesmerizing. Hard to watch, but an enticing watch nonetheless.

Walter Hill is the man in charge of the introverted action in The Warriors. The men he presents appear to be part of the outside world, but they really aren’t. They are their own world, a world within which they are trapped. When they are confronted by the actual outside world they know not how to react. How can children react when they are shown something that scares, titillates, and presents them with something completely alien?

Youthful the Warriors are, full of piss and vinegar. They’re also scared, and that is their main driving force. They are scared of a world they don’t know and a society that will never accept them. That’s why they so easily toss around a word like faggot. Eventually homosexuality will be accepted, and yet they still won’t. They don’t understand being gay, just as they don’t understand women, the law, or anything but trying to be tough.

The film moves at a breakneck pace, it can’t stop because its main characters can’t stop. They aren’t just in a race to save their lives, they are in a race against time. At some point in their nebulous era the Warriors will become old, and that scares the young men most of all. What if they are old and haven’t accomplished anything? How will they deal with time passing them by and leaving them in the dust? They aren’t equipped to handle such change, and it is their fear of this change that they are truly running from.

Lean and mean, The Warriors comes at the viewer like a fast moving wrecking ball. Mr. Hill orchestrates his cast and the material in exquisite fashion. He gets the most out of every bit player, every costume, and every flash of a weapon. Mr. Hill focuses on the men of this world, throwing all other characters to the side. One female is allowed in their midst, but she is treated as second fiddle to the dying manhood of the gang. Keep on running Warriors, run all night and day. There’s no sunset for you retreat into, and no happy ending to save your hides. Walter Hill gives his young men no place to hole up; their ugliness, bravery, and stupidity is on display for all to see.




Bill Thompson

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