Nov 20th, 2007 | By | Category: Columns

So, sometimes people ask me “What do you like in a story?” or they ask me “What’s your favorite movie?” or they ask me “How did you get to be so disturbed?”

The answer to all of those is probably The Warriors.

With most of my favorite movies you can say, “That movie sort of sucks,” and I will be happy to agree with you – I am really devoted to a lot of sucky movies. I know this about myself, and I’m fine with it. But if someone says “The Warriors sort of sucks,” I say, “You’ll have to prove that to me.” And why?

Because it is AWESOME. How awesome? Picspam below. Uh, spoilers, obviously.

The narrative structure of the Warriors is incredibly simple; nine gang members who have left their Coney Island turf for a rally in the Bronx are trapped when everything goes south, and forced to try to make their way home unarmed, with every gang and every cop in the city looking for them. The gang functions as a collective hero – each member’s goal is almost exactly the same (I’ll get to the differences momentarily), and nearly all their actions reflect the singular, uniform drive to meet that goal.  When you deviate, you are punished. Sort of awesome, but also sort of weird.

And really, if you havent’ seen the movie, the plot summary is not going to do it for you: “It’s about a gang who gets trapped in the Bronx and have to make it home to Coney Island” sounds like the beginning of a math problem. (The Anabasis, on which The Warriors is based, has an extremely similar structure, I am told, but I am an illiterate heathen who has never read it, so for all I know it could be about Greek sandal vendors getting into fights.)

However, once you start cracking this movie open, it’s like cracking an egg, only to find another egg inside it, with a Russian nesting doll inside THAT, and Chuck Norris in the middle.

All pictures, by the way, are from the awesome Warriors movie site; I shoved them into my gallery so I don’t hotlink the poor dude/tte.


from left: Cleon (Warlord), Rembrandt (Artist), Chochise (muscle), Cowboy (hat-carrier? I dunno, he’s sort of useless), Ajax (muscle), Vermin (bearer), Swan (War Chief/Warlord), Fox (Diplomat), Snow (Muscle, cool cat)

The Warriors are introduced during the movie’s opening sequence as we flash back and forth to the gangs that are heading for the Bronx for the big rally. Now, the first, like, eight times you see this movie you might not pay attention to the intros, because you’ll be looking for the High Hats:

MIMES IN TOP HATS. I am serious.

But eventually, you’ll start to recognize the individual gang members by their one-track minds; this action-movie trope might be lame, but since it’s a collective hero we can all pretend they’re just facets of the same dude and it gets interesting, or you can just enjoy the fact that by the 3 minute mark you can already tell that Swan, Snow, Fox, and Rembrandt are pretty smart, and that everyone else is screwed.

Anyway, 9 unarmed representatives from most of the gangs in the ctiy have gathered at the behest of Cyrus, the leader of the Riffs, the biggest gang in the city. Note that most gangs send nine people out of their ranks; the nine Warriors are their entire gang. Just something to keep in mind. It’s like awesome-broth flavoring the soup of this movie.

Cyrus’ speech has apparently become the most famous thing in this movie, and his “Caaaaaaan yooooooou dig iiiiiiiiiiiiit?” has been samples for any number of cool things. I had no idea about this until someone was like, “The Warriors? Isn’t that where [musical artist I can’t remember] got the sound sample from?” Anyway, Cyrus knows how to give a speech, you guys:

…on a playground. Aw, yeah.

His speech is a rousing call for all the city’s warring gangs to lay down their beefs with each other and organize into a single force that would be able to whup police ass and basically run the city. And it’s totally working, until.

Who looks a little like John Mayer and is apeshit crazy? THIS GUY.

The leader of the Rogues, who apparently is getting bored with all the clapping, whips out a gun and assassinates Cyrus.

This has to happen to set the plot in motion, but it also adds a kick to the story that I really like, namely: one gang running the city would be a nightmare for the regular person (the implied viewer), so as much as we theoretically don’t want the Warriors to get pounded, we’d much rather they have to make a run for it through the choas than deal with the triumph of Cyrus, so to some degree we have to thank Apeshit John Mayer (AJM) up there for breaking that up. Weird, and cool.

The cops swarm the place, but not before AJM sees one of the Warriors (Fox) has witnessed the murder. In the melee, Cleon, the leader of the Warriors, is in the wrong place at the wrong time as AJM points the finger and blames the Warriors for the assassination. Cleon is promptly killed-ass, but not before he takes out about four of the much-more-highly-trained Riffs, which is a harbinger of things to come. Namely, that the Warriors are scrappers.

The rest of them break through a wooden gate and escape (scrappers!), and Swan is promoted from second-in-command to Warlord almost unanimously. The guy who doesn’t like it? Ajax.

Ajax will cut you.

Ajax, who is no-question-about-it insane, has already expressed a desire to bust a few heads, hopes to meet “some strange wool”, and suggests that anyone not as bloodthirsty as he is is “going faggot”. He really sucks in a lot of ways, but something about James Remar is so, SO awesome, and it turns out that Ajax really is one of their best fighters, so he garners a lot of sympathy for someone who is really no less crazy than AJM.

After a little friction, they head home.

The rest of the movie is broken up into the following pattern:

* Warriors rumble with a much bigger, better-armed gang, totally kick ass, and make it to the next stage.

* Some poor schmoe has to tell the Riffs’ new leader that the biggest, baddest gangs in the city are getting whupped by nine dudes without weapons.

* Disembodied Radio Lady sends out an alert that maybe the other gangs in the city should stop sucking so much.

* New gang prepares to find and fight the Warriors.

* Rinse and repeat

There’s nothing groundbreaking here (and really, there’s no surprise it got made into a video game, either, because what a perfect format, right?). It’s in the little things that this movie rocks. It’s how the Warriors REALLY DO end up outrunning, outsmarting, and outfighting all the cops and all the other gangs. When they get broken up, you can also see the damage not having a strong, smart leader does to them. Helmed by Swan, the Snow/Ajax/Cowboy contingent is able to outmanuever and then outfight the Baseball Furies, of whom there are about 12? ish? Granted, the Furies are kind enough to only attack each Warrior one or two at a time, but seriously, when you’re watching the movie it’s amazing. As soon as Ajax strays from Swan’s guidance (to try to attack an undercvoer Mercedes Ruehl, which, DO NOT FUCK WITH MERCEDES RUEHL, dude!), he’s caught by the cops, and when Snow and Cowboy double back for him, he’s already a goner.

(It’s never stated, but I’m pretty sure poor Ajax is killed-ass by the cops.)

Left alone, and totally able to safely make it home, Vermin and Chocise decide that nothing flavors a run for your life like some chicks, and against the protestations of Rembrandt they go off with the girl gang The Lizzies at Union Square.


I share this with you only because these girls seduce the two dummies, then lock the door and whip out guns and knives from out of nowhere, leading to my favorite line from this movie.


I spent a year trying to form a band so I could name it “The Chicks are Packed.” I’m still trying.

Sadly, they get away. This is the only point where I disagree with the movie; I think Vermin, the horniest of them and the stupidest, should have gotten his ass killed. However, the slow-motion shot of Chochise opening a door by THROWING HIMSELF THROUGH IT sort of makes it all okay.

Swan, caught out by himself and forced to run, has been chugging along with Mercy, the total bitchface who tagged along with them in the Bronx and is the token girl. Not much to be said about them except that, while their characters were emo:

The actors were clearly having an okay time.


ANYWAY, they all manage to meet up, kick some ass in a men’s room at Union Square, and get back to Coney, where AJM is waiting for them, determined to kill them all. Too bad for him, one of his guys totally ratted him out to the Riffs already, but hey, nobody on the beach knows that!

AJM calls them out using one of the creepiest calls in movies ever, which I can’t even pretend to recreate here. Suffice it to say that the sound he makes with those beer bottles will haunt your dreams.

….your DREAMS.

And the Warriors are like, “Okay, you know what? FINE.” And they gather a lot of broken-chair-leg type weapons and head for the beach like a bunch of AWESOME PEOPLE.

Mercy is in the back with a broken glass bottle. Just FYI.

They actually get to the showdown, but AJM whips out his gun and then pauses to pontificate, which gives Swan the time to throw a switchblade at  AJM and PIERCE HIS HAND WITH IT OH HELL YES.

The Riffs, who arrive a moment later to take the Rogues out of the Warriors’ hands, agree with me on the “oh hell yes” part, and the Warriors get to walk back along the beach to romantic music as, in the background, seven guys are brutally beaten to death.

How sweet, right?

I seriously urge you, if you have not seen this movie, to do so. There are so many little moments I can’t even capture that make it great, not least of which is the way the movie walks the line between self-aware camp and total, balls-to-the-wall stylish and awesome without seeming to notice or care; there are some genuinely awesome shots, and some hilariously cringy moments, but it all works out.

Perfect example of this: this publicity photo that’s styled to be Last-Supper-esque, with the secondary gang members framing a beatific Swan, Ajax pulling a Judas and turning away, Cleon looking on with an angelic distance, hand to his heart.

This is so cheesetastic, you guys, but holy crap, I love it.



Genevieve is a prolific writer of speculative fiction living in New York, but you’ll never find her there because millions of people live there and Genevieve likes her privacy. Examples of her fiction can be found in Strange Horizons, Fantasy Magazine, Federations, and numerous other magazines and anthologies. Her first novel is forthcoming in 2011. Also? She has terrible taste in movies.


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