Film Review: The Warriors
New York actor Roger Hill passed away about a week ago according to the New York Daily News. He was best known for playing Cyrus from the 1979 film "The Warriors".
I first encountered "The Warriors"on television in the 1980s. It was a perfect movie for me. By this time I was settled in Connecticut but still had a healthy love for my native city of New York and still went back there quite often to visit and stay with family. I have prints of old maps of New York City in my house here in Massachusetts - one of Colonial-era New York and another of the 1970s New York City Subway map. What got my attention as I was channel surfing was the frequent scenes taking place in the subway.
"The Warriors" tells the tale of a gang (named the Warriors oddly enough) that travels from their home turf in Coney Island to a meeting of gangs in the Bronx. They have been assembled under a flag of truce by Cyrus, leader of the biggest gang in the city. Cyrus has a vision of bringing all the gangs together and taking over the city. However the meeting falls apart as Cyrus is assassinated and the police raid the assembled gang. And worst, unbeknownst to the Warriors, at least at first, is they have been blamed for Cyrus' assassination. All the gangs are gunning for them, as are the police, with their home in Coney Island far away.
The story itself is inspired by the Greek soldier/writer Xenophon's tale Anabasis, a tale of Greek soldiers serving as mercenaries under Cyrus the Younger in Persia. With Cyrus' death the Greeks find themselves deep within enemy territory.
One of the things which makes "The Warriors" notable is its portrayal of New York City and its gangs. The gangs are very stylized with little attempt at realism. They tend to be multiracial with firearms extremely rare. They are also very stylized. For example you've got the Baseball Furies, dressed like a strange cross of baseball players and mimes and armed with baseball bats. The city is New York at its worst. Graffiti everywhere. It is not the New York of the glitzy Times Square that emerged in the 1990s but rather the New York of the 70s and 80s with everything falling apart and someone out at night is considered to have been "asking for" any tragedy which befalls them,
Almost the entire film takes place at night, with the sun only rising as the survivors reach Coney Island (with one final confrontation to face). The rest of the film takes place at night, with sparse subway stations, parks poorly illuminated and dark streets with stores and bars closed and barred shut.
Our protagonists aren't the nicest people, often looking for fights, one member of the Warriors going after a woman in a park with an intent to at best harass her and far more likely to rape her should she prove unreceptive to him.
Yet despite, or perhaps because of, this bleak setting and morally-lacking protagonists, it is an absolutely engaging film. You find yourself rooting for them and against the police which are, quite correctly, after them.
To geek out a bit in keeping with the main subject of this blog... How does the film work for those in the gaming world? I think it's a pretty darn good inspiration. It immediately brings to mind the various White Wolf World of Darkness games. Vampires from Vampire: The Masquerade or Vampire: The Requiem would fit right into this setting. Werewolf: The Forsaken has the concept of territory of utmost importance, much like it is to the various gangs of "The Warriors". And most White Wolf games would recognize the concept of belonging to a certain "gang" (or tribe or clan). Though it is a near-modern setting, the likes of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser would fit right into the New York of "The Warriors" and would understand the ethics the Warriors operate under. Truthfully it also models your typical roleplaying group rather well - as the gang conclave falls apart and the Warriors lose their leader and they are being chased by police they still manage to find to argue with each other as to who is in charge - hello inter-party conflict.
Regardless of whether you're looking for inspiration or just a fun film "The Warriors" is well worth your time. Can you dig it?