Come out and play
1957: West Side Story, the musical about a white gang member falling for a Puerto Rican gang-leader’s sister. 1967: SE Hinton’s novel The Outsiders, with “Ponyboy” Curtis caught between Greasers and Socs. 1979: The Warriors, adapting Sol Yurick’s novel about a Coney Island gang hunted by rival crews as it tries to get from the Bronx back to its home turf.
The Warriors, with its Greek history-inspired, slickly stylized take on legions of street toughs, comes to Metro as part of its “Rebel, Rebel” series. Here, tribal identities are near-totemic, defined by one’s outfit of allegiance and accompanied by a hard stare and a sneer.
Director Walter Hill and his crew stage the opening summit—where visionary Cyrus, calling for gang unity and a citywide takeover, is shot dead by the Rogues’ leader, who quickly blames the Warriors’ chief—and other gang-gatherings with an impressive grandeur. (The story riffs off Xenophon’s Anabasis, recounting the march of 10,000 mercenaries back to Greece around 400 BC.) Early on, the pulsing colour designs match the pulsating score; a DJ plays “Nowhere to Run” to mark the red leather-vested Warriors as NYC’s most wanted. Comic book panels, bridging some scenes, add another youth culture touch.
There’s sometimes a leering nastiness, as when the Warriors snatch a “whore” looking to get in with a pack of more alpha male guys. But her eagerness to join up becomes more complex, and it’s capped in the subway by a silent sense of the chasm in class between these on-the-run punks and two prom couples.
Hill’s film hit screens two years after a blackout in the crime-riddled Big Apple saw looting and arson; the subway, as seen here, was beset by breakdowns and crime and rife with graffiti. The Warriors’ panning and scanning of streetscapes and station platforms for potential danger seem to stand in for many civilians’ anxious gazes at the time. But its stylized look, retro phrasing, (“Some two-bit outfit almost got them but they bopped their way past”), and theatrical scenes make The Warriors a gangland tour which reframes the city’s big bad streets as a theatre of initiation for troops of young men.
Sat., June 10 (9:30 pm) and Wed., June 14 (7 pm)
Metro Cinema, $12