New York City, 70’s ‘fros, and cheesy street brawls – can you dig it? In The Warriors, there is no shortage of any of these things. The film portrays the many different gangs of New York such as the Warriors, the Baseball Furies, and the Punks, to name just a few – who have all been summoned to a meeting by the leader of The Gramercy Riffs, Cyrus, who proposes to unite all the gangs as one.
Claiming that the 60,000 gang members can easily outnumber the police force of the entire city, he receives cheers of support until he is suddenly shot dead by Luther, leader of the Rogues. In the ensuing chaos, Luther points the finger at The Warriors’ leader Cleon, who is subsequently killed by the mob.
Having been framed for the murder of Cyrus, the Warriors now have a hit out on them. A member named Swan assumes leadership of the gang and they begin to head back to their territory on Coney Island. Along the way they encounter a series of rival gangs who try to subdue them in order to deliver them to the Gramercy Riffs’ new leader, Masai.
The Rogues, who are truly responsible for the murder of Cyrus, fear what will happen if the truth comes to light and thus plan to kill the Warriors before they can be delivered to Masai. The gang meets many interesting characters as they traverse the streets of New York such as Mercy, a girl from the less powerful gang the Orphans, who joins them much to Swan’s reluctance.
The Warriors has become a cult classic due to its campy atmosphere. The fight scenes for example, are dubbed with the most exaggerated punching and swinging noises as the gangs awkwardly brawl with each other in parks, beaches, and bathrooms. The attire of the gangs themselves is also supremely cheesy. Most hilariously, the Baseball Furies all sport baseball uniforms and face-paint while wielding baseball bats as their chosen weapon while the leader of the Punks scoots around on roller skates.
The Warriors also meet an all-female gang called the Lizzies, who seduce them before attacking them by surprise with knives and guns, which results in one of the best lines of the film: “The chicks are packed! The chicks are packed!” Additionally, each scene transitions with illustrated comic book-like slides which simply adds to the delightfully retro vibe.
If you can get past the inescapable cheesiness of The Warriors, there are perhaps some profound messages about unity and the ability to mobilize for the common good. Cyrus makes a speech that in some ways could be likened to those of Martin Luther King Jr. — only filled with 70s slang — while he sports a silky Hugh Hefner robe like the fiercest, most powerful leader of the streets of New York would of course. Overall, it is a true classic that will make you both laugh and think.