FOOTAGE FETISHES: “THE WARRIORS”

“We ain’t got time for this right now.”

It might seem to those of you who insist on a modicum of realism in their films that making the sign of the two-humped whale isn’t exactly the most efficient use of one’s time when one is hotly pursued by several thousand pissed of gang members. And you’d be right. Vermin, Cochise, and Rembrandt manage to escape this lapse in judgment more or less unscathed. Ajax isn’t so lucky.

Pity poor Ajax: not only is he saddled with the name of a common household cleanser, but he’s easily the most repressed character in the entire movie. He exhorts his comrades to greater violence by calling them “faggots,” and, in an effort to prove his manhood to the rest of Team Strike Force after the dust-up with the Furies, makes his move on a woman (Mercedes Ruehl) sitting alone on a bench in the park.

Obviously, any lone woman sitting in a New York City park after dark in 1979 is either batshit crazy or a cop. Ajax rolls the dice and gets busted, though for what I’m not sure. She must be part of some anti-park sex task force.

The point is, Swan had already admonished Ajax that they didn’t have time for his pleasure while the “armies of the night” were hounding them to the very Gates of Hell (not in so many words, but you get the idea). And he was right. For a long time, I would get irritated whenever the protagonist of an action movie would take time from saving the world/defusing the bomb/killing the flunkies to get down with the romantic interest. It wasn’t until “Stargate,” when James Spader was angling for a little alien booty, that Swan’s words came back to me in their original form. I’m sure Walter Hill meant for Ajax’s arrest to demonstrate the logical outcome of his impetuous and violent nature, but I prefer to think Ajax was arrested simply because he couldn’t prioritize. In all fairness, Swan himself almost submits to Mercy’s greasy charms later in the film before happily coming to his senses.

“We fought all night for this?”

The Warriors eventually “bop” their way back to Coney Island (but not before beating up a bunch of Jethros in a train station bathroom), and are confronted by Luther and the Rogues. After one of the more unintentionally humorous moments in the film (“Warriors…come out to play-ee-ay…”), Luther confesses to shooting Cyrus, though his reasoning (“I just like doing things like that”) doesn’t quite sate our modern-day appetite for psychological rationalizations. Still, this is David Patrick Kelly, who watched “Enter the Dragon” 47 times, or whatever it was.

Luther and the Rogues? Wasn’t that Bruce Willis’ band?

In retrospect, the Warriors could’ve easily taken Luther and company. Luther may have the only other gun in the film aside from the Lizzies, but Swan is nails with a thrown switchblade. Unfortunately, just as the Warriors are about to open a party ball of whoop ass, the Riffs show up. They’ve come to make amends for their hasty decision to “waste” the Warriors by stomping Luther and his crew. Swan is no idiot, in spite of his attraction to Mercy, and leads his crew on a hasty, if dignified, retreat while a crowd of Riffs armed with everything from lead pipes to hockey sticks finish off the Rogues. Exit the Warriors stage right to the strains of Joe Walsh’s “In The City.”

Pipes? Hockey sticks? I never thought I’d refer to “The Warriors” as “quaint,” but Walter Hill must have had some serious misconceptions about gun control to set a gang movie in the future and show us only three firearms (and revolvers at that). The Riffs are super-bad and all, but three guys armed with MP5s would wipe the floor with them. For that reason (and for the hilarious gang costumes), “The Warriors” is ultimately best viewed in the context of other chase movies of that era like “Logan’s Run” and not as a “gang” flick.

Remake My Day

That thing about “West Side Story” gives me an idea: you could update “The Warriors” by producing a musical remake. The outfits sported by many of the gangs (shiny Members Only jackets, overalls, satin pink vests) completely lend themselves to the visual format of a big production number. Nathan Lane could play Swan, who defeats his enemies through song, not violence. The finale wouldn’t see the Riffs show up, but would feature a musical throwdown between Lane and Michael Flatley as Luther. Courtney Love is sleazy enough to play Mercy, and Hugh Jackman would make a decent Ajax.

Even better, he’d fulfill the community service requirements for his park arrest by hunting down and killing the entire cast of “Rent.”

Pete Vonder Haar isn’t going to fall for a banana in the tailpipe…prove him wrong at FILM THREAT’S BACK TALK.




Posted on November 19, 2003 in Features by

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