Monday, 15 August 2011

The Warriors



The Warriors is one of the three great films of 1979. If you want to write something that is fast-paced and nail-biting then this is a worthy object of study. Its high concept of 'falsely-accused Warriors have to fight their way across the city past rival gangs to get home' gives us an unpredictable story with well-depicted and individualistic gangs, superb photography, and perfectly placed music.



The film is based on Sol Yurick's 1965 novel of the same name, but many details were changed during the making of the film, and the most unsavoury elements of the book were replaced with plot elements that meant it was possible to feel a level of empathy for some of the protagonists. The classic example of that from the film is an amazing scene where members of the Warriors gang and a hussling girl, Mercy, are sat on a subway train facing two couples who obviously have money and prospects and are returning from a ball or party in full finery. It becomes uncomfortable for both groups: the moneyed couples intimidated to silence by the rough gang facing them; whereas by contrast with the well-dressed women Mercy feels shame at the poverty of her clothes, her tangled hair and the dirt on her face. When she begins to fidget one of the warriors, Swan, firmly grips her hand and places it on her lap, a moment of concern for her that betrays his humanity as well as the class-conflict being portrayed. The two well-dressed couples get off the train at the next station. A scene without relevant words that still manages to convey a huge amount.

Their quest takes them from the darkness of night to the hope of a new day, ending with sunrise on the beach. This ties in with the optimism of a hero who readjusts his values and helps someone else to do the same during a journey which owes a lot to Greek legend. The 'night of trial' setting resonates as a high concept for non-literary fiction (hence it being the basis for my novel Turner). The Warriors is a master-class in its popular execution.

The film was #14 in Entertainment Weekly's '25 Most Controversial Movies Ever' and #16 in their 'The Top 50 Cult Movies' list.

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