Highlight: The Warriors

courtesy of Paramount

Set in a pre-Giuliani New York that seems to be populated entirely by gangs ("They outnumber the police five to one," went the ad campaign), this 1979 film recalls a time before Los Angeles had replaced the Big Apple as the ongoing symbol of American degeneration. In fact, the movie opens with a dystopian (or utopian, depending on your politics) suggestion of a multiracial army of the dispossessed, as gang visionary Cyrus (Roger Hill) exhorts a mass meeting of rival gangs to unite and control the city. After he's assassinated mid-speech, the film's eponymous gang, wrongly accused of the killing, must make the journey from the Bronx to Coney Island, with every other gang in the city out to capture or kill them. Embracing the cheesiness of its B-movie premise, The Warriors also draws slyly on various Hollywood genres, including the Western (the dangerous passage through enemy territory) and the musical (the elaborate choreography of its fight scenes and the theatrical costumes of the various rival gangs—the face-painted Baseball Furies being my own personal favorite). That virtually every woman in the film proves to be a threat and/or hindrance to our (anti-)heroes is an unfortunate hangover from these intoxicating genres, although the fierce Lynne Thigpen's lady DJ (a character since appropriated by those semiotic omnivores at Nike) proves to be one of the film's many pleasures.

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