The warriors of the night, analysis of an action cult


The warriors of the night (The Warriors) is a 1979 film directed by Walter Hill, Master of American Cinema who on 6 September 2022, at the 79th edition of the Venice Film Festivalwill receive the Cartier Glory to the Filmmaker Award.

In light of this event, it therefore makes sense to review and remember one of his most important films, a real cult which marked the era of the 80s and all action cinema. Inspired by the novel of the same name by Sol Yurick (in turn inspired byAnabasis from Xenophon), is the third feature film by the American director who will be confirmed as an important author with subsequent works such as 48 hours, The warriors of the silent swamp And Streets of fire. The warriors of the night it had to be called precisely Streets of Firebut the production does not like it and the director therefore decides to recover it for the beautiful 1984 film.

A simple but irresistible content

The events narrated there The Warriors of the Night they take place in a single night and the characters involved are the New York gangs. Cyrus, the leader of the Riffs gang, one of the most organized and important, calls for a truce to try to ally all groups against the local police. The deranged Luther, leader of the Rogues, is not there and decides to assassinate him, but a witness sees him: he is a member of the Warriors. To save himself Luther lies and declares that it was the Warriors who assassinated Cyrus.

From this moment the nine members of the warriors are forced to flee to their base in Coney Island, but they have against them all the enemy gangs that want to eliminate them and the police themselves.

The New York gangs are the real stars

The Night Warriors NPC Magazine

The linear but functional plot of The warriors of the night is a mere pretext to show the nocturnal fauna of the city of New York, with an incredible array of mysterious and menacing characters. The general imagery is almost grotesque, very heterogeneous and with varied looks ranging from the simple combination of jeans and t-shirt (the gang of The Orphans, so unimportant as not even being invited to the gathering) to the elaborate look of The baseball furies .

It is a group dressed as baseball players who use sports bats as weapons, but in addition to this the director wanted to pay homage to one of his favorite rock bands with make-up on the face of the criminals: the trick is a reference to the one used on stage by Kiss. Particularly disturbing is also the fact that the members of this gang never speak.

Among the members of The Punks there is one who roams the streets of New York on skates, while the members of the Riffs wear a series of oriental kimonos. There is also an all-female gang, the Lizzies who seduce and lure some of the warriors into their lair with the aim of killing them: from this very event the warriors will understand in what bad situation they find themselves and their escape will begin. Not only the look is heterogeneous, but also the ethnicity both between rival gangs and within the same gang, including warriors.

Filming was done only in part on film sets and mostly in real locations in New York and the Bronx, this aspect contributes to the strong realism of the staging. Some members of real gangs were invited as extras during the initial gathering, others were paid to keep the crew vans checked, and still others were involved in the creation of some murals. There was no shortage of problems as the actors were challenged to fight by real gang members, but luckily the situation did not degenerate, thanks also to the presence of plainclothes policemen present during the making of the film. In addition, threatening letters have arrived from some gangs not included in the film and some sets have been vandalized.

The warriors of the night: a cult work of the 80s

The Night Warriors Walter Hill NPC Magazine

The warriors of the night has acquired more and more admirers over the years, to become a real work of worship. There are several citations in other cinematographic, television and musical works; there is also a video game and a reboot in series form produced and distributed by Paramount And Hulu.

The film has a fascinating look which has not aged at all, resulting exquisitely vintage, clearly anchored to the imagery of the 80s. Thanks to a nocturnal setting that shows the exteriors of New York and that in some ways recalls the atmosphere of 1987: Escape from New York from John Carpenter but not only that, there is also a splendid electronic funky style column based on the sounds of the synthesizer and on a series of danceable grooves.

What still amazes todaydecades later, it is the fast pace of The warriors of the night without ever a decline: it always manages to be entertainment, an action film without special effects but which bases its charm above all on the description of the characters and the world of gangs. There is no lack of a love story, albeit not too in-depth, purely of outline and there are even dramatic moments (some of the characters have a bad end).

The presence of a charismatic is to be noted villain in the character of Luther, played by David Patrick Kelly (Twin Peaks), the psychopath who triggers the whole story and who in the end becomes the protagonist of an iconic scene, entered into the common imagination when he pronounces the sentence “Warriors, shall we play war?” making an annoying noise with glass bottles he stuck his fingers in.

The Night Warriors NPC Magazine

In the early 2000s, Paramount released a new version of the film on home video, partially reassembled and with comic-style inserts added that act as a transition between scenes. The operation was commissioned by Walter Hill himself who prefers it to the original as it is closer to his intentions.

It is a pleasure to see that a prestigious festival like that of the Venice Film Festival recognize and decide to reward an author like Walter Hill who has left an indelible mark in action and thriller cinema through a ten-year production that has The warriors of the night its spearhead.


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The warriors of the night, analysis of an action cult