Sunday, February 10, 2013
The Warriors. A
Zach Campbell has a good piece on the new Sylvester Stallone movie Bullet to the Head that reminded me I need to get more aquatinted with its director, Walter Hill (the piece also makes some glorious punches at Armond White, who referred to Bullet as Godardian) Hill worked prolifically on action movies in the 80s and 90s and has a handful of titles that are deeply respected in spite of their being mainstream genre pictures. Among them is The Warriors, which I was lucky enough to catch this past week and pretty much fell for immediately. The movie, very original, begins with every New York gang gathering in the Bronx to hear the leader of the city's most powerful group speak of gaining power over the law. One loose cannon in then crowd assassinates him and blames the hit on a gang called The Warriors. What for? Mainly because he thinks that kind of thing is fun to do. The rest of the movie consists of the Warriors trying make it back to their home in Coney Island while evading other gangs out to destroy them for the killing. The movie is oddly stately and intelligent, a dark meditation of sorts on the honor of a gang in quiet city at night. But it's also breathtakingly exciting, as other gangs might pop out to attack from anywhere at anytime. Particularly frightening are the Baseball Furies, a gang of paint-faced thugs dressed in baseball uniforms and armed with wooden bats. That being said, one never gets the feeling that the Warriors aren't up to the task of taking down the opposition. They're fast, trained fighters, relatively intelligent, and as their leader says at the end, "the best." And though Hill doesn't seek to glorify them (several members come across as true degenerates), the viewer sides with them completely if for no reason but that they've been wrongly accused of a crime. At times The Warriors feels like it takes place in another world where only gangs and cops exist. Even a local DJ plays songs relevant to the Warrior's situation (including In the City, which I was thrilled to learn was actually written for the film) But then there's a scene near the end of the movie when the Warriors are on a subway and a group of upperclass youths enter. The scene, maybe the best in the film, suddenly elevates the material up a notch, as we begin to understand something about the leader, Swan (Michael Beck), and why he might be where he is. But above all, I think it shows that Hill really is a great director, not just of action, but of quiet interior moments in which the camera tells the story. This is a great film, a masterpiece of machoism and a strange, unexpected kind of philosophical musing.