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The Warriors: Ultimate Director's Cut

Walter Hill never established himself as an A-list Hollywood director, despite launching Eddie Murphy's movie career with the rough and funny box-office smash 48 Hours (1982). Although Hill flirted with a few oddball mainstream projects afterward — and co-wrote the mammoth 1986 hit Aliens — his best work came in the form of tough-but-elegant, lean-but-stylish B-movie action flicks. His third effort, the 1979 gangland epic The Warriors, may endure as Hill's signature opus, as its wild cross-section of bubblegum comic book cheese and quiet masculine bravado has earned it a cult following amongst devotees of late night cable fare (a big-budget remake, in fact, is scheduled for release in 2006). Michael Beck stars as Swan, the no-nonsense leader of a party of nine delegates from the Coney Island street gang The Warriors, who warily journey far from their turf to an unprecedented gang summit in the Bronx. When the messianic keynote speaker, Cyrus, is shot by an unhinged ruffian (David Patrick Kelley), The Warriors are wrongly accused for the assault and must fight their way back home with every other gang in the city out to get them. While the narrative lends itself perfectly to Hill's skill for bracing action scenes and no-frills character development, what really set The Warriors apart from the rest is its juxtaposition of high-camp costuming and set-pieces with Hill's dead-serious P.O.V. Hill skillfully differentiates the hundreds of different street gangs in the movie by fitting them in outlandishly flashy theme costumes, so that the streets are crawling with overall-clad rollerskaters, killer street mimes, spookily made-up baseball players, and Rajneesh-like cultists, among others (before you dismiss The Warriors' high-concept gangs as too silly for credibility, however, you may want to take a look at "krumping"). The Warriors' gangs seamlessly bridge the fashion-victim gap between the musical Hair's flamboyant hippies and the over-dressed ruffians of Michael Jackson's music videos for "Beat It" and "Bad" (and foreshadows Hill's 1984 gangland pulp opera, Streets of Fire). Beneath the startling visual camp, however, The Warriors delves deep into the uber-masculine psyche with little regard for political correctness or appeals for empathy, and the cast of then-(and mostly now-)unknowns embraces both its stoic toughness and broad jive with relish, resulting in a solidly gritty street drama with a handful of enjoyably overwrought catch phrases and lingering emotional resonance. Also with James Remar, Deborah Van Valkenburgh, Mercedes Ruehl, and Roger Hill. Paramount's "Ultimate Director's Cut" DVD release differs from the original theatrical version only in the addition of a few "comic book" scene transitions (which have been decried as apostasy in some Internet circles) and a brief opening scene explicitly sourcing the plot inspiration to an episode in Ancient Greek history. A few scenes that were later added for TV are not included in this cut, and Hill explains why in the featurettes. Paramount presents the feature in a good anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) with Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby 2.0 Surround audio mixes. Hill provides a brief introduction to the movie and also appears in the four short accompanying featurettes, along with other cast and crew members. Original trailer, keep-case.
—Gregory P. Dorr

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