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Walter Hill
Michael Beck, James Remar, Dorsey Wright
Writing Credits:
Walter Hill

When someone kills the leader of a rival faction, the Warriors are falsely blamed and now must fight their way home while every other gang is hunting them down.

Rated R.

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English Dolby 5.1
Spanish Dolby 1.0
French Dolby 1.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 94 min.
Price: $14.99
Release Date: 7/3/2007

• Introduction by Director Walter Hill
• Four-Part Documentary
• Trailer


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The Warriors [Blu-Ray] (1979)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 12, 2021)

As a director, Walter Hill’s commercial career likely peaked with 1982’s 48 Hrs., a fairly big hit. However, Hill first entered the public consciousness three years earlier via 1979’s The Warriors, a controversial effort.

Cyrus (Roger Hill) leads a New York City gang called “The Grammercy Riffs”. He seeks a truce to unite all the local clans, but this ends poorly when someone assassinates him.

The others blame the Warriors gang and seek revenge. Members of the Warriors struggle to cross unfriendly territory to get back to their own turf.

Because I was 12 in 1979, I knew of The Warriors but never saw it. Actually, my Dad took me to some “R”-rated flicks back then, but either I showed no interest in the flick or the Old Man simply told me no.

I did know of The Warriors at the time, and I maintain a vague recollection of the debates about it. As mentioned, it set off controversies, mainly connected to violence related to the film’s theatrical screenings. These created a major kerfuffle and overshadowed the movie’s actual merits.

Viewed in my home 42 years later, I don’t fear riots too much, though I guess some part of Warriors might agitate one of my dogs. From this vantage point, it becomes difficult to understand why the movie inspired so much furor, as it seems too silly and goofy to merit bloodshed.

When the gathering of gangs occurs at the movie’s start, we see one group made up of dudes in mime garb, and another that looks like they just came from the disco. Later in the flick, we meet violent youths clad in Yankees uniforms and garish face paint.

Perhaps this all seemed creepy and intimidating in 1979, but in 2021, it feels absurd. Would these costumes actually intimidate anyone? Probably not, as the characters feel more like members of the Village People than homicidal toughs.

Even if I ignore the camp factor, Warriors falters because it just seems so darned dull. Essentially a Western at heart, the “story” follows a rote framework: the Warriors run into foes as they travel, fight, lather, rinse, etc.

Granted, the film tosses out some other interludes as well – strange ones, as these gang members seem oddly unconcerned with haste as they pursue their quest. They find all sorts of reasons to dawdle on their trek back to Coney Island, and these choices make no sense given that their lives literally depend on their return to their home turf.

Given the repetitive nature of the rest of the “plot”, I guess I should welcome these dalliances. Instead, they just make a sluggish movie even slower and more tedious, as they add little suspense or drama.

If Hill imbued the various battles with real urgency or creativity, I might not mind the absence of a strong plot or involving characters. However, the fights tend to seem as rudimentary as everything else.

We find a lot of skirmishes, but virtually none of them come across with real power. Some of that stems from the silliness of the gangs – heck, one scene wants us to feel intimidated by a guy who looks like he came straight from a roller disco movie – but the film also falters just because these “action scenes” simply fail to connect.

We see the fights but without investment in the characters, we don’t care what happens. Again, if Hill made the battles more dynamic, this might not matter, but the whole enterprise feels turgid and uninspired.

All of this means The Warriors winds up as a wholly forgettable action flick. It might’ve created controversy 42 years ago, but in 2021, it seems like a dud.

Note that this Blu-ray provides a “Director’s Cut” of The Warriors. It only extends the theatrical version by a minute or so, as it adds a comic book style introduction – with voiceover from Hill – as well as a few cuts with similar comic book reflections.

I get that Hill feels these additions make the movie more of an overt comic book adventure, but they seem gratuitous and poorly integrated, as their style never blends with the 1979 film. The added material for the “Director’s Cut” doesn’t ruin the flick – the original footage does that on its own – but it makes a flawed tale even weaker.

The Disc Grades: Picture C/ Audio C+/ Bonus B

The Warriors appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Superficially, the Blu-ray looked good - too good given the film’s circumstances.

As I went into Warriors, I expected an image with prominent grain and a gritty appearance. Due to the movie’s age and budget and narrative goals, that would make sense.

Instead, the Blu-ray looked surprisingly clean and shiny. Though the entire movie took place at night, grain seemed mild at best, and a lot of low-light shots felt scrubbed.

This didn’t leave the end result entirely devoid of grain, but I couldn’t help but believe that a film from 1979 shot under these conditions would come with a lot more grain than I saw. As it stood, light grain appeared, and barely any of that materialized in some of the darkest shots.

Overall sharpness seemed positive, though some light edge haloes betrayed the use of artificial sharpening. The movie could take on a less than organic feel, but still, it generally offered good definition.

No issues with jagged edges or moiré effects materialized. Print flaws failed to become a concern.

Colors usually stayed muted to match the tone and settings, though some brighter hues manifested at times. The Blu-ray reproduced these colors well.

Blacks looked dark and deep, while shadows seemed smooth and clear. The movie offered visuals that seemed positive in the abstract but just didn’t feel right for a gritty action flick from 1979.

Remixed from the original monaural, the film’s Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack immediately lost points due to the absence of a lossless option. Granted, this disc came out in 2007, back before lossless Blu-rays became nearly automatic, but I still feel compelled to lower my grade when a release only provides lossy material.

The soundfield opened up to a decent degree but it didn’t always – or often – show smooth spread to the other channels. Music and effects broadened in a general manner and occasionally displayed positive localization, but more often, they moved to the various speakers in a loose, non-specific way.

This left the soundscape as “broad mono” much of the time. Though we got enough material placed in the correct spot, too much of it seemed tentative to make this an effective soundfield.

Audio quality showed its age and low budget origins but seemed acceptable. Speech could seem a bit thin and tinny at times but the lines always remained intelligible and they lacked notable issues.

Effects could come across as a bit rough at times, but they showed decent range. Music worked the same, with songs and score that offered decent life, if not great power. I wish the disc came with the original monaural, but this remix seemed adequate.

In terms of extras, the main attraction comes from a four-part documentary. Actually, the disc presents these as separate featurettes, but they seem to exist as parts of a whole.

These take up a total of one hour, three minutes, one second as we find “The Beginning” (14:07), “Battleground” (15:24), “The Way Home” (18:07) and “The Phenomenon” (15:23). Across these, we hear from writer/director Walter Hill, producer Lawrence Gordon, editor David Holden, executive producer Frank Marshall, costume designer Bobbie Maddix, assistant director David O. Sosna, editors Freeman Davies, David Holden and Billy Weber, stunt coordinator Craig Baxley, director of photography Andrew Laszlo, director’s assistant Neil Canton, composer Barry De Vorzon, and actors Michael Beck, James Remar, David Harris, David Patrick Kelly and Deborah Van Valkenburgh.

In these programs, we hear about the source novel, its adaptation and path to the screen as well as cast and performances, costumes, sets and locations, stunts and action, photography, editing, music, the film’s release and legacy.

All four of these segments combine to give us a pretty solid look at the movie. We receive a broad look at a nice mix of topics in this useful collection of featurettes.

In addition to the film’s trailer, the disc provides an Introduction By Walter Hill. During this one-minute, 18-second piece, Hill discusses his intentions for this “Ultimate Director’s Cut” of the film. Don’t expect a lot of insights.

Back in 1979, The Warriors created a massive wave of controversy. It seems tough to believe that this goofy, campy piece of fluff inspired real-life violence, as the film seems too toothless to inspire much passion. The Blu-ray comes with erratic picture and audio as well as a good documentary. I guess Warriors has its audience, but I can’t find much to like here.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2.6666 Stars Number of Votes: 3
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