Paramount // 1979 // 93 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // September 13th, 2007
Can you dig it?
Walter Hill's kick-ass comic-book/gang/chase-movie NYC street epic debuts on high-definition, and shows that this is the format where it belongs.
The film opens with our heroes, The Warriors, a gang out of Coney Island (sometime in the future), headed for a massive, New York City-wide gang meeting, where the enigmatic Cyrus, leader of the Gramercy Riffs, plans to make a stunning proposal. But before he can conclude his speech, someone whacks the guy, and the Warriors are blamed.
Surrounded by gangs that want to throttle them, police officer ready to book them and a psycho aiming to kill them, The Warriors, led by war chief Swan (Michael Beck) and hothead Ajax (James Remar), must make the 100+ mile trek back to Coney Island in one night without getting bopped or busted or both.
If there was a late '70s futuristic gang chase movie that was more suited for high-definition than The Warriors, I don't know what it is.
I was pretty late to The Warriors party, having even goofed around a bit with Rockstar's Xbox brawler before even seeing the film. When I finally sat down to see what all the fuss was about, I came way very impressed.
It's a straight-arrow chase picture, a gang movie that trades in moralizing and ham-handed social commentary for a wild premise and a ton of action. Walter Hill has created an alternate reality (that supposedly takes place "some time in the future" according to the spiffy new title sequence), a palette infused with a comic book's style, that commingles guys of all races, gives them outlandish gang names and costumes and sets the whole thing loose for a night of furious running.
Is there a film that features more sprinting than this one? Chariots of Fire maybe. The gallant troopers that make up the titular gang are constantly pounding the pavement, and the never-ending pursuit really rockets the film along. There's some downtime when the group splinters and some of the guys find themselves ambushed by a seductive all-female gang, but really, this a feature that releases the brakes ten minutes in and pounds on the accelerator until the finale.
It's one of those movies where you just sit down and enjoy it, setting aside the need to tease some kind of profound statement on disenfranchised youth or the natural inclinations of human civilization and simply soak up the joy of watching guys in clown makeup and baseball uniforms get stomped in the middle of a park.
I like what Hill did with his Ultimate Director's Cut. He made the film -- already stylized and unrealistic -- even more flamboyant. Transitions have been given a comic book panel makeover, augmenting the graphic novel feel Hill was pushing. The facelift adds a little flavor to an already rich confection of imagination, and I think makes for a more unique experience. Really, watching The Warriors now makes the unfortunate violence associated with the film's premiere that much more ridiculous. There's a gang led by a guy in jean overalls who zips around on roller skates. Boyz n the Hood this ain't.
As I stated before, here's something that flourishes in high-definition. The outlandish gang colors spring to life -- the Baseball Furies look great, juxtaposed with the deep reds of The Warriors' leather vests. Picture quality is very clear, even during the expansive night scenes. When the morning sun rises in Coney Island, the details stand out even more. Top to bottom, this is an awesome-looking treatment and the absolute best way to watch The Warriors. The Dolby Digital Plus surround if adequate, but nothing noteworthy. I was disappointed in how front-loaded much of the film sounded.
The extras are the exact same from the DVD release of the Director's Cut, a disappointment considering the potential of HD DVD's interactive capabilities. Still, these bonuses are still strong, highlighted by the four-part behind-the-scenes documentary: "The Beginning," "Battleground," "The Way Home" and "The Phenomenon." Each featurette blends cast and filmmaker interviews with on-set photos and footage. It's a slickly produced offering that does justice to the film's appeal. Batting cleanup is an introduction from Walter hill and the original trailer in HD.
The Baseball Furies have never looked better. If you consider yourself a fan, you owe it to yourself to scope out the HD version of Walter Hill's action classic.
I dig! I dig!
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (Widescreen)
* Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (French)
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (Spanish)
Running Time: 93 Minutes
Release Year: 1979
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Director's Introduction
* Four Part Making-of Documentary