Grade A

Director Walter Hill’s gritty movie about NYC gangs in the 1970s stands the test of time, with each new generation of movie lovers being introduced to and enjoying this cult, classic hit.

On a hot, summer, NYC night, the most powerful gang leader, Cyrus, organizes a meeting among the hundreds of street gangs of NYC.  The Warriors, coming in from Coney Island, Brooklyn, is one of the gangs attending.   During Cyrus’ speech on organizing the gangs to take over NYC, he is shot and killed by the leader of the Rogues gang (played by David Patrick Kelly).  Kelly shifts the blame to the Warriors, and now every gang is after them, as well as the NYPD.

Michael Beck (playing the leader of The Warriors) must lead his small group from The Bronx all the way to Coney Island, fighting their way neighborhood by neighborhood.   The odds are heavily against The Warriors, with 100,000 “boppers” and about 20,000 cops looking to take them out any way they can.  The Warriors consider themselves to be the best, and tonight, they will have to prove it.

My most memorable, movie moment of “The Warriors” is the scene when four Warriors are being chased in Central Park by a gang called The Baseball Furies (guys dressed in the familiar pinstripes of The Yankees, but wearing face paint like the rock band KISS).  Beck and another Warrior veer off to the right, and the Furies continue after the other two Warriors.  Moments later, Beck and his companion appear behind the Furies to attack the enemy stragglers from behind.   It’s a great example of Beck’s strong, battlefield tactics that will give The Warriors a slim chance to get home.

For those too young to remember what NYC looked like decades ago, this is an eye opener.  “The Warriors” is a snapshot of how savage the city that never sleeps was back in the 70s: graffiti everywhere, a gang in almost each neighborhood, the high crime rate, the overwhelmed police, and the grime that seems to seep out of the walls and streets.  But it is also a very engaging movie with many memorable characters, lots of action sequences, great pacing and direction, a charismatic leader (Beck) whom the audience will want to see find his way home, and a music score that enhances the frightening nature of the city streets at night despite its sometimes disco-rock infusion.

— M