The Warriors Film Analysis Essay

Film Friday: The Warriors (1979)

The Warriors is a 1979 cult classic by Walter Hill about a gang that must traverse New York City from Van Cortlandt Park to Coney Island as hundreds of other gangs hunt them down. Even though that description sounds simple and exploitative, the film is deeply complex and interesting. Believe it or not, it’s also a Greek epic playing out in New York City.
The plot is straight forward. The story opens with the main characters traveling to Van Cortlandt Park under a flag of truce. They are the leaders of a street gang called the Warriors. They’ve been told to send nine unarmed representatives to the park to hear a proposal from the leader of the most powerful gang in the city (the Riffs). His name is Cyrus and he proposes that all the gangs stop fighting each other and band together. With there being 60,000 of them, and only 20,000 New York City cops, they could take over the city.
As he reaches the high point of his pitch, a shot rings out and Cyrus is killed. He is shot by a gangbanger named Luther (David Patrick Kelly). At this moment, the cops show up to attack the gangs, which sends everything into confusion as all the gangs flee. In the confusion, Luther starts screaming that the Warriors are the ones who shot Cyrus. The Warriors’ leader Cleon is attacked and taken down but the rest escape, though the rest aren’t yet aware of what they’ve been accused.

Word goes out to hunt down the Warriors... alive is preferred, dead is acceptable. As the Warriors make their way back to Connie Island, they are hunted by various gangs, all in ridiculous costumes, as well as the cops. Their new leader, Swan (Michael Beck), picks up a woman (Deborah Van Valkenburgh as Mercy) with whom he argues the entire way. The gang feuds about leadership. They get sidetracked. One dies, one gets caught by the cops, and the rest need to overcome all the obstacles in their way as they try to make it home.
Why The Film Works
This film became a major cult hit, and the main reason for that is the depth. I’ve noted before that what makes a film a cult hit, rather than a popular hit, seems to be that it’s a smart film with lots of depth, but doesn’t spell everything out as clearly as general audiences need. Thus, general audiences will see the film as confused or pointless because they just don’t get what is going on. This film has those traits as well, and likely will seem like a schlock action film to general audiences... akin to how Rollerball is wrongly seen as a film about violent sports.

Indeed, this film traffics heavily in ambiguity. The dialog here is sparse and terse. Little is explained. Questions are answered with actions, not exposition. The characters speak in slang which doesn’t get translated. Character actions aren’t explained through exposition either. The relationship between Swan and Mercy is all handled through looks and levels of tolerance rather than professions of love. For example, the fact he lets her continue with them speaks volumes and, even then, he only tells her near the end of their journey that she can come with them and he talks around why. Characters, like the leader of the Orphans, change their minds in dramatic fashion, but never say what caused it, though you can understand it if you get the context. The only reason you know the Lizzies are lesbians is the absence of males and that they are dancing together. Fox dies, but it’s never clearly said or shown. We have no idea if the Warriors’ original leader Cleon lived or died, or what was Ajax’s ultimate fate after he stars fighting with the cops. The Riffs never even say they know the Warriors didn’t kill Cyrus, they just tell them they’re all right. These are the types of things general audiences typically need explained.
But ambiguity alone does not a good movie make. What makes this film so good is all the depth packed into it. Indeed, what appear to be little more than a movie about one gang being chased by others is so much more. Consider these themes and issues:
1. The film is about leadership. Cyrus is a messianic leader. He is replaced by a man who is almost the polar opposite, almost robotic or satanic. Swan takes over the Warriors when Cleon vanishes. There is immediately a power struggle and we see the troops pick Swan. Why? Was it his toughness or his responsibility or something else? Swan must immediately show that he’s up to the task by becoming a diplomat, when he has never been that before. He must understand when to stand up for pride and when to swallow his pride. And he must motivate his troops. His actions are a study in leadership.

2. Why do they fight? The obvious answer is that they fight because they don’t want to die. But that’s not really true. Cyrus thinks fighting is the natural order of things and it’s “a miracle” when they don’t. Swan fights first to survive, but then fights for pride even when he could avoid a fight. They all seem to cite their territory as the real reason they fight, but when the Warriors reach Connie Island and see it in the morning, Swan asks derisively if this is really why they fought and he thinks of getting away from it.
The characters are complex too. Look at Mercy’s character. She takes great offense at being called a whore, even though she probably is. She talks about how the future promises her nothing and she wants to live now, but at the same time, she’s looking for a better future. Yet, she joins this group knowing they are being hunted and will likely be dead by the end of the evening, and she does so despite Swan showing her nothing but contempt. Cyrus, who seems like such a fantastic leader with the power to unite them all is actually a murdering thief who wants to unite them so they can steal the city blind and terrorize its people. Luther is a true sociopath who just wants to see the world burn. He proves why Cyrus’s plan can never work... it’s doomed by the very nature of the people required to make it work.
There’s an interesting social commentary too. The film is based on a novel and in adapting it, the filmmakers added a bunch of white characters (there are no white characters in the book). Still, despite these token whites, for most middle-class white people in suburbia or Minnesota, this film would have been a shock in 1979. Cyrus is talking about a minority uprising. He is talking about 60,000 mostly black and Puerto Rican gangbangers overwhelming the cops and taking over the city. This plays into the black power movement, which scared the crap out of white America in the 1960s/1970s – the Riffs even borrow from the Black Panther/Viet Cong look and affect military-like precision. This film digs deeper than Hollywood ever delves into this issue.
The film also explains why people join gangs: poverty, lack of education, fear, a desire to feel powerful, and psychopathic/sociopathic personalities. It shows the cops as faceless oppressors (indeed, try to get a good look at one in the face anywhere in the film), which reflects the gang mindset. Again, this is deeper than Hollywood ever gets when it talks about gangs - Hollywood talks only about economics or fear of the cops. And while the film does make the Warriors sympathetic, it also reminds us that they too are rotten. We see this as one tries to rape a woman, as they fight for stupid reasons like refusal to take off their vests as they pass through a street, and as they strike terror into some kids riding home from the prom.

And if all of that isn’t enough to be packed into a film about a gang being chased, there is another level which I find the most fascinating. This film is based on a 1965 novel by Sol Yurick, but it’s ultimately an adaptation of the Greek Epic Anabasis by Xenophon.

Xenophon was a soldier who accompanied a large army of Greek mercenaries hired by Cyrus the Younger. They intended to take the throne of Persia, but even as they won the battle, Cyrus was killed, making the expedition pointless. Their leaders were then killed, and the remaining troops needed to fight their way home. It even ends at the sea, where The Warriors also ends.
In other words, this simple film about some gangs is actually a Greek epic. What’s more, once you start to think of it in those terms, each of the encounters takes on a new significance. In many ways, Mercy becomes a Helen of Troy figure, the prize Swan wins. The gangs represent challenges like the Cyclops or armies they come across. The Lizzies are Circes. The Furies are Furies or the Harpies. Turnbull is the Minotaur. The subway is the labyrinth. You have very classic-Greek betrayal in them being falsely accused of killing Cyrus. Characters who fail morally fail in the story and end up dead or captured. And in the end, you have the unveiling of the truth and the retribution against the betrayers. Very classic. These things don’t all come from Anabasis, but they give the film a mythical, epic feel.

This is why this film continues to have such a following, because it offers so much. There isn’t a scene in this film which doesn’t give you a lot to think about or multiple ways to see it. And to get this, you need to use your brain because the film feeds you nothing. That makes it all the more interesting because it leaves it up to the audience to solve the riddle.

Essay on “King Kong” Movie Analysis

1839 Words8 Pages

A good movie can either be captivating or thrilling depending on the plot of the movie. Like the thrill of a rollercoaster, so is the thrill that comes from watching the King Kong movie. It is both captivating as well as intriguing in the sense that it provides rich thematic presence and sceneries. In this paper, the learner will take a look at the King Kong movie from a critical perspective to deduce whether the movie really should be living up to its fame.
The movie “King Kong” was a commercial success in 1933, although the great gorilla briefly flickered merely on a few hundred screens (Linn 35) and (Selznick, Cooper and Schoedsack n.pag). According to “Universal Studios Hollywood (13), King Kong’s story had to be…show more content…

pag) and (“Universal Studios Hollywood” 13). On the island, the filmmakers find that the inhabitants live within a huge palisade as protection from the island's monsters (Selznick, Cooper and Schoedsack n. pag) and (“Universal Studios Hollywood” 13). But King Kong, most fearsome of them all, is only placated by sacrificial offerings of young women (Selznick, Cooper and Schoedsack n. pag) and (“Universal Studios Hollywood” 13). Ann Darrow is kidnapped and offered to the giant gorilla beast (Selznick, Cooper and Schoedsack n. pag). Instead of killing her, he is infatuated, fighting in her defense against the other monsters (Selznick, Cooper and Schoedsack n. pag). Jack Driscoll and the others rescue Ann and capture the giant gorilla that is then taken to New York for exhibition (Selznick, Cooper and Schoedsack n. pag). King Kong subsequently breaks loose and searches for Ann, terrorizing the city (Selznick, Cooper and Schoedsack n. pag). In the end, the great ape climbs with his beloved to the top of the Empire State Building, where fighting airplane flyers machine-gunned him to death (Selznick, Cooper and Schoedsack n. pag).
King Kong Movie Analysis
The elements that made the movie King Kong such a great classic (“Peter Jackson’s King Kong” 117) are the same ones that contribute to the success of almost any film: writing, acting, pacing, cinematography, thematic coherence, subtext; and the ineffable synergy arising from a combination of all of the individual

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