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THE WARRIORS
Ultimate Director's Cut

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Michael Beck, James Remar, Deborah Van Valkenburg, David Harris, Roger Hill, David Patrick Kelly
Director: Walter Hill
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround, French Dolby Mono
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Paramount
Features: See Review
Length: 93 Minutes
Release Date: October 4, 2005

“WARRIORS…COME OUT TO PLAYYYYYYYYYYYYY!!!!”

Film ***1/2

In the realm of Cult Classics, Walter Hill’s The Warriors is to forever hold a place as one of the defining films of the genre. Here was a movie that, despite not having the strongest plot, managed to be a memorable piece for its style, brooding atmosphere of the gangland lifestyle, and some of the most badass characters to ever appear in a single movie.

The film itself actually got a bit of negative press when it was first released 26 years ago. There were reported incidents of actual gangs confronting one another and fighting in the very theaters where the movie was playing. As unnerving as this might sound, the brutal effect of the movie is actually what helped it gain cult status.

Now, director and co-writer Hill has gone back and reshaped the movie in a way that would properly reflect the way he personally envisioned it in the first place. For Hill, The Warriors always possessed a comic book-like level of storytelling, and the movie itself has been given several moments of comic art applied to crucial edits between scenes. Also added to the movie is a introduction relating the story to the wars fought in Greek times, which Hill and co-writer David Shaber intended in the first place.

By now, the story should be familiar to everyone. The action kicks off with one of the most memorable opening credit scenes of any movie; a montage of all of New York City’s flashy gangs boarding the subway, and heading only to one place. They are all summoned to gather at a peace ceremony in the Bronx, where a wise gang leader named Cyrus (Roger Hill) intends to propose a truce amongst all the gangs, who have been at each other’s throats for some time.

But plans for a united turf are damaged when Cyrus is gunned down in front of everyone. The shooter, a member of the Rogues gang, pens it on a rival gang known as The Warriors, the heroes of the movie. With every opposing gang out for their heads, The Warriors, lead by the calm and cool Sway (Michael Beck), have no choice but to make it back to their home turf at Coney Island. Making matters worse, they are unarmed and miles behind enemy lines.

Not only are all the gangs after them, but the cops are on their trail, too. The movie now kicks into gear and never lets go once our hero gang is on the lam. And trying to get home by foot in the city that never sleeps is no walk in the park, but in fact a beat down in the park, which is exactly what The Warriors endure when they cross paths with rival gang the Baseball Furies, who use wooden bats as weapons and wear gothic makeup.

The movie also contains a scene that sends a message to all guys looking to score. That message is do not judge a book by its cover. It’s a lesson The Warriors learn the hard way when The Lizzies, a female gang appearing to be looking for fun, soon turn out to be knife-wielding lunatics, forcing The Warriors to forfeit what was intended to be break from running.

Although the movie was shot in the full tone and style of a late 70s movie, The Warriors is best enjoyed, I think, as more of an apocalyptic movie. The only characters to be found are gangs and cops, making it seem as if they’re the only ones left in society. The movie can very much be thought of as an appropriate companion piece to John Carpenter’s Escape From New York, released only two years later.

Walter Hill went on to be a highly noted action movie director, making such worthy genre pics such as 48 Hrs., Red Heat and Trespass, as well as the nearly forgotten 80s action musical, Streets of Fire. It goes without saying that Hill really made a big impression with The Warriors, which remains the director’s finest movie to date. If you haven’t been able to discover this cult gem, now is as good a time as ever!

Video ****

Having viewed the original disc multiple times, I can certainly say that Paramount has terrifically improved the picture quality, and then some, for this reissue. Not that the first disc was a sour looking one, but it’s rare that a movie from the 70s gets to look so incredible in the format, which is exactly the case here. Added to this, all but the last ten minutes of the movie take place at night, and every shot looks incredible and flawless, which is truly something of an achievement in this department. Rest to sure that this will get high marks at this year’s DMC Awards.  

Audio ***1/2

This reissue also includes another upgrade; that of a 5.1 Dolby Mix. The original disc only contained a 2.0 track so it was nothing short of marvelous to hear this movie, which is heavy on music and action, in full remastered glory. The music is the high point, as both the classic score by Barry De Vorzon and Joe Walsh’s rockin’ track “In the City”, that closes the movie, are delivered in strong dynamic form. Dialogue and numerous set pieces garner additional points in what is easily one of the best DVD presentations of any 70s pic that I’ve experienced.

Features ***

Although there is no commentary track to be found, Paramount has given this new Ultimate Director’s Cut release of The Warriors a good enough level of retrospective extras. Included is an Introduction by Walter Hill, and 4 well made featurettes; “The Beginning”, “The Battleground”, “The Way Home”, and “The Phenomenon”, each features interviews with many cast and crew members. Rounding out the bonuses is a theatrical trailer.

Summary:

The Warriors has been reshaped and reissued in knockout form. This new Ultimate Director’s Cut release from Paramount is a must have for all fans of this Cult fave, and is a must see for those who haven’t yet discovered it. “CAN YOU DIG IT?”

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