Installment one was a “best” and installment two was a “worst.” So here’s another example of one of the best: Walter Hill’s The Warriors is an adaptation of Jewish-American writer Sol Yurick’s novel of the same name. Walter Hill, as we already know, makes manly movies about manly men. And The Warriors is populated with manly gang members, as well as younger kids trying to be men by being in gangs. Importantly, it must be noted that this write up of The Warriors will be of the original film and not the recent “Ultimate Director’s Cut DVD,” which itself (coupled with the director’s cut of Donnie Darko) is an example of a director not realizing what makes their film great. But that’s a completely different article. So with that out of the way…
In adapting the novel, Hill and David Shaber (Nighthawks) changed quite a bit, making the story more streamlined and upping the “forces of antagonism” so as to keep the audience interested. The most immediate change comes in the form of the name of the main gang. In the movie they are obviously called the Coney Island Warriors, but in the novel they are the Coney Island Dominators. When representatives of the Dominators go to a gang summit that goes bad, they just have to get back home crossing through rival gang territory. The Dominators are not framed for a murder and hunted down like the Warriors in the movie, as most of their problems arise from tensions between the gang members themselves and the little bit of police they run into. And in the novel, the Dominators never have a violent altercation with a rival gang, whereas the Warriors find themselves either fighting or running away from the Gramercy Riffs (the Delancy Thrones in the novel), the Orphans (the Borinquen Blazers in the novel), the Baseball Furies, the Turnbull AC’s and a group of weird, roller skating punks (none of these gangs are in the book anywhere).
And though there is seemingly less violence in the book, it’s obviously more real. For example, a girl leaves the Orphans and tries to hang out with the Warriors. By the end of the movie, she is hand in hand with the leader of the group and they are both thinking about a better tomorrow. In the novel, a girl leaves the Blazers to hang with the Dominators. In the short term they were together, the Dominators jumped and killed an innocent bystander, with the girl cheering them on, and then the Dominators turn on the girl and gang rape her right on the corpse of the guy they just killed. And then they leave her there on the sidewalk and she isn’t heard from again. Pretty brutal. There are plenty of other things in the book that wouldn’t, and probably couldn’t, be worked into the film. A lot of the conflict is internal with these characters (as is the case with most stories in the written form) and to show someone struggling with their emotions and feelings is not very visually exciting. It can be, but it’s hard.
Fortunately, Walter Hill knows how to make a movie and knows what drama works on screen and what doesn’t. The Warriors is an action film, first and foremost, and there is plenty of physical and real danger for these characters. Sure, there’s some inner turmoil, both within the group and within the different characters, but most of the danger comes in the form of trying not to get one’s head caved in with a baseball bat. My favorite moment comes when the Warriors are confronted by the Orphans, and about twenty Orphans show up and try to intimidate the eight Warriors. In response, the Warriors light a molotov cocktail (one of them was deftly carrying around a bottle on a string around his neck) and toss it on a nearby car, setting it on fire and causing it to explode in awesome Hollywood fashion. And the Orphans are all like, “Woah, what was that all about?” while the Warriors get away without a scratch on ’em. It was a pretty intense and interesting way to make their retreat, that’s for sure.
Also awesome is the rampant use of David Patrick Kelly (Commando, The Crow) who gets his first film role here as Luthor, head of the Rogues street gang and leader villain of the movie, as he guides his gang of losers around town in search of the Warriors. Kelly is awesome, and along with Michael Beck (Xanadu) and James Remar (Pineapple Express, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation), this movie is buoyed and moves along thanks to it’s young and energetic cast. But not pimply-faced, The OC looking young (read: Star Trek), but young and still seasoned looking, guys that apparently stopped existing after the 70’s and early 80’s. The opening shot of the movie is quite iconic, with the Wonder Wheel ferris wheel being lit up at night. And there is an awesome subway bathroom brawl that culminates with someone getting tossed through a wooden bathroom stall door in slo-mo.
Both the book and the movie are great, though for different reasons. The movie is a great film with a well told story and lots of cool action and plot turns. The book is a very interesting and insightful look into the minds of people who would prefer these kinds of situations, and would prefer to live violent lifestyles with like minded people. If there ever was to be a remake of The Warriors (and director Tony Scott has talked about this before), I think the best idea would be to make something much closer to the book, which would be very daring and ballsy considering the lack of action and non-climatic ending, so obviously the final verdict is: don’t remake The Warriors. And like I said before, stay away from that weird, funkified Ultimate Director’s Cut