The Warriors

dir. Hill

Opens Fri June 4

Clinton Street Theater

To the less refined hater, claiming The Warriors is the greatest film ever made might sound like a ridiculous assertion: the movie, directed in 1979 by Walter Hill (48 Hours, Brewster's Millions), is defined by implausible dramatic twists, impossibly leaden dialogue, and the most un-self-consciously absurd costuming you will likely ever see.

But what other film better encapsulates the seedy borough of Manhattan in the '70s, a city overrun with turf wars and inter-gang fracas--danger 'round every corner, from strangely named crews (Baseball Furies, The Punks) wearing ridiculous corresponding outfits (baseball uniforms and face paint; overalls and rollerskates)? The Warriors, a group of tough fellows from Coney Island, are the stars. Duped and framed for murdering a top-tier gang leader, they journey across foreign turf to prove their innocence after a dramatic, unprecedented all-city gang gathering.

The Warriors' setting is essential: the physical atmosphere of the dirty, Mad Max-style, burned-out warzone of pre-suburban NYC boroughs in the '70s. That the film is so over-the-top in its depiction of its turf wars, yet still manages to reflect some truth about the climate of the times, is what makes it so great. The film is lifted out of the pure cult-schlock ghetto into a major statement about the "urban blight" of the time. (Also, NYC gangs did wear ridiculous matching outfits.) This is not to say you won't laugh at The Warriors--the passage of time makes everything kind of hilarious, even topics so serious as gang violence and vengeful, baseball-bat-wielding psychos--but as pure cultural artifact, it ranks with Wild Style in capturing the essence of the volatile invention of the '70s.