Nowhere to Run
Sent to theaters in 1979 on the cusp of New York’s most violent decade, The Warriors is a dated, eccentric peek at gang culture, initially written as a rebuttal to West Side Story’s cozy depiction of inner city gang culture. What resulted now looks bizarre, with face painted, baseball jersey-wearing goons teaming with roller skate wearing thugs to take out the leather-clad Warriors.
It’s cartoonish even, simplified in the extreme, and barely glances the social or cultural circumstances that drive teens and young adults to join these factions. Yet, that surface level rumination on New York’s gangs had an impact. If anything, The Warriors’ hardened violence and brutality is remembered now for its influence on pop media rather than exposing any truths.
The Warriors is very much a “found” classic
The Warriors is very much a “found” classic
Videogames shamelessly borrowed this formula for the brawler genre, where players took control of a hero to clear the streets of roving gangs. The Warriors is even structured similarly, with each encounter essentially the next level for Swan (Michael Beck) and crew to conquer. Eventually, in the mid-2000s, The Warriors even joined the medium, with a popular game adaptation that drew attention to director Walter Hill’s work, coinciding with DVD’s rise.
The Warriors is very much a “found” classic outside of the street gangs who engorged on the film in its initial run. It’s surrealism edges reality – certainly, the violence looks and feels real – but by the late ‘90s and 2000s, as other films portrayed west coast culture with a hardened authenticity, the weird, dated playfulness of The Warriors was able to find a wider audience. This became an escape from that truth, not as a means to mock or even understand what leads inner city conflicts, but a sometimes farcical take that’s easier to digest.
This is a movie that exists only in one place and at one time. It doesn’t work in the ‘60s or the ‘80s; The Warriors is of the ‘70s, and embraces its place as a mad dash through one night in a barren New York. With few exceptions, this world is controlled by the gangs, darting across empty parks and darkened, wet streets as other citizens hide behind locked doors, unseen. It’s startling at times, and captures the east coast city only at its most rotten. That’s where these kids live. Alone. Hopeless. It’s a shame The Warriors doesn’t aim for at least limited context.
Outside of its aesthetics, The Warriors never once looks its age on UHD. The near ridiculous level of texture and fidelity bypass any wear and tear to time. With a precise, pinpoint grain structure, wherever the source print found fidelity, this transfer projects it. Visible resolution is maxed out.
Various costumes and their colors run through this transfer to create a startling array of reds, blues, and yellows, among others. The variety is pure home video spectacle, with saturation naturally glossy but not overdone. Flesh tones sport organic vibrancy.
Flawless, consistent black levels exude dazzling depth. Dolby Vision brings an added spark that further lifts The Warriors out of the ’70s and into the modern era. Coney Island’s lights sizzle, as do those of police cars.
In addition to an isolated score, Arrow includes mono, stereo, and Dolby Atmos options. Noting the improvements in Atmos, the subway creates marvelous atmosphere, spreading the sound of the rails into each speaker. The initial gathering of the gangs reveals source limitations (treble sounds flat, even restricted, which is true for the mix as a whole) but does marvelous work to extend into the surrounds. Helicopters sweep overhead in the heights. While busy and even a bit exaggerated, the result does expand the soundstage in a satisfying way.
Bass generates a small thrust in the low-end, notable first as a bus chases the Warriors to the train platform. It’s loose and messy, but does bring some depth into the mix.
In terms of clarity and overall intensity, the PCM mono mix remains the best of the trio. Even without the bass, it’s a brighter, clearer mix that’s a far batter option.
The theatrical and alternate cuts earn their own discs in this package. Beginning on the theatrical disc, author Walter Chaw provides commentary. A new interview with Walter Hill comes next. Two more interviews follow, the first with editor Billie Weber and then costume designer Bobbie Mannix. Manix then opens the archives to further explore the process. A peek at composer Barry De Vorzon;s work is handled by historian Neil Brand. Filmmakers Josh Olson, Lexi Alexander, and Robert D. Kryzkowski engage in a roundtable discussion about their appreciation for The Warriors.
The locations are explored in Come Out and Play, with four archival extras following from previous discs. A trailer and image gallery lead into the alternate cut, which includes an older intro from director Walter Hill.
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The Warriors’ influence can be seen in countless pieces of pop culture, even as the original work shows its age culturally.
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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 35 full resolution uncompressed 4K screen shots grabbed directly from the UHD: