Strange Moments in Solid Movies: Warriors, Come Out to Play Ball

Every once in a while, a movie comes along that is championed by a select group of moviegoers, esteemed when most others find it less worthy of reverence. In turn, this group becomes its own little cinematic subculture, one that admires the movie, defending it from outside bashing because it is their own. It both defines the subculture and brings definition to the moviegoers themselves, showing what turns them on, what differentiates their predilections from more popular and/or commercial tastes. If others don’t get what they get out of the movie, then those others should just get out. And, finally, when this line is drawn in the sand, the cult movie is truly born. Walter Hill’s cult classic The Warrior is a prime example of this phenomenon because not only is there a fervent community out there willing to protect it, but the movie itself exhibits an us-against-the-world mentality similar to that of any cult-movie community, ever ready to defend their home turf. And watch out world: yours truly is here to throw down (think West Side Story, but with even more ruthless finger-snapping).

The Warriors is one hell of a ride. Revolving around the titular gang’s attempt to get back to Coney Island while seemingly every other gang is hot on their trails after they are falsely accused of assassinating the leader of the biggest gang (Cyrus of the Riffs, a man with the vision to unite them all to take over New York City), the story showcases an insatiable hyper-masculinity that appeals to the little boy in every guy in the audience who at one time thought that punches and kicks could be taken with minimal blood loss and bruising, knives could never cut too deeply (but would probably leave awesome-looking scars), and all bullets could be easily eluded with a little resourcefulness (like ducking, running, or even standing still). In the movie and the imaginations of its audience, surviving these dangers may be the most important goal, but looking good in the process is a close second. And, for the most part, The Warriors doesn’t miss a beat. The journey is presented with great efficiency and leads to some exciting action sequences along the way–duly making the protagonists appear to be badasses.

However, when too many gangs get together, and all are trying to look good and show off their own colors, then there’s a slight problem: everyone can’t look good together and still stand apart for a viewing audience. They have to be different enough to be recognized as different gangs. In the opening moments in the film, Cyrus has called together a hundred gangs in New York City (with another hundred who would love an invite), all of whom wear their own colors, their mark, to show that they aren’t acting as civilians; they are part of their gang and their colors give them an identity. Because of this, Cyrus’ congregation is wonderfully diverse. All the colors of the rainbow are given some love. But because there is the narrative need to exhibit so many gangs, all of which require unique colors for the sake of demarcation (in the movie’s universe and for the audience watching), gangs will undoubtedly look more and more garish because there are only so many ways of mixing it up before audience get mixed up trying to follow everything. With over a hundred potential colors presented, it’s no wonder that the film exhibits some extraordinary clothing to individualize some of the gangs because playing up the differences also implies playing up the artificiality (and subtlety goes out the window). And the strangest example of this color coding is the Baseball Furies, whose members wear complete baseball uniforms and face paint for effect. Take a look:

The Baseball Furies are a fan favorite and it’s easy to see why: with their speechless and almost inhuman behavior, they are certainly imposing and they give the Warriors a run for their money. And their weapon of choice, the baseball bat, is appropriately brutal when hits are landed, while it also allows for some nifty bat-play between the rival gangs when the weapons switch hands. Plus, they are wearing cleats, and no one wants to tussle with anyone who can stomp with spikes (like Ty Cobb). So, there are some cool cinematic qualities to The Baseball Furies; what they wear makes them stand out and makes them really lethal too. Furthermore, if you were to wear a get-up like that to go around and cause havoc, then you would probably have to be crazy or just someone who really wanted to scare others; their appearance suggests that there is something really wrong with them. So, the outlandishness of their uniforms and face paint works to show that these guys are not to be messed with. They are the only gang that is prominently shown throughout the movie that is that far outside the realm of reasonable color coding (The Top Hats are only in a few shots, but they leave their mark, as well) because they are that far outside the realm of reason. And the fact that the Warriors are able to defeat such crazies is mighty impressive.

It’s important to note that the Baseball Furies, as unique as they are, do not detracts from the film’s tone or even its universe: for the most part, there are no real-world consequences to be found throughout, and asking for this movie to operate with real-world logic is probably asking too much. What it does follow really well is movie logic, in that for one night, the Baseball Furies make a memorable appearance in the movie, do battle in their patented way, and are left in the dust–just like every other gang that goes against the Warriors. But it is what they wear that cues the audience in on their maliciousness, their derangement, and that cue makes them much more memorable. So even if The Baseball Furies are defeated by the film’s protagonists (which is ultimately necessary in this type of adventure/survival story), the baseball gang nevertheless succeeds in one important way: they are strange. And strange goes a long way when you are out to make your mark–at least in cult movies, like The Warriors.