Reconstructivist Art: The Warriors

The Warriors (1979) by Walter Hill and David Shaber as an example of Reconstructivist Art

A cult classic movie, The Warriors traces the adventures of a multiracial New York street gang battling to make their way home after a disastrous gang summit, despite the opposition of a lurid assortment of flamboyant enemies.

(1) Nod to Artifice: The movie was originally conceived as a live-action comic book. Although it never made it into the original theatrical release, the concept was to have each major scene first presented as a page from a comic book, a framing device finally realized in the 2005 release of the “director’s cut” version on video. Even without the device, however, an anti-realist comic-book sensibility survives in the movie in the form of the highly stylized street gangs, each with a bizarre theme and cartoonish look (such as the memorable “Baseball Furies,” dressed like baseball players, with faces painted like zombies).

(2) Classic Structure: As is common in reconstructive art pieces, the movie is an adaptation of an adaptation, in this case taken from a novel that was itself inspired by the Anabasis, an ancient Greek epic by Xenophon, a warrior and student of Socrates. Like its structural model, it tells the story of an outnumbered band of mercenaries making it home against all odds.

(3) Transcontextual and Iconic Elements: Each of the movie’s many gangs is iconic and allusive in look, style and conception, including the eponymous heroes who represent the mercenary warriors of Xenophon’s original, but who have a look partially inspired by war garments from various Native American nations. Other transcontextualized gangs include the “Baseball Furies”, named after the ancient Greek spirits of revenge, and the “Lizzies”, a seductive-but-tough lesbian gang who represent the alluring-but-deadly Sirens of greek mythology. Many of the film’s signature moments have become iconic images of popular culture themselves, most notably the “Can you dig it?” speech by messianic gang leader Cyrus, and the bottle-rattling taunt “Warriors, come out and play!” delivered by demented villain Luther.

(4) Moments of Genuine Emotion or Significance: As cartoonish as the movie may seem, there is a level of sociological, intellectual and emotional depth to its themes that places it head and shoulders above the low-budget action films it outwardly resembles.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *