Despite the fact that their calendar is crowded with Marvel Cinematic engagements, Joe and Anthony Russo announced on Monday that they’re developing a series based on the 1979 cult-classic film, The Warriors. The show will eventually lead Hulu through a production deal with Paramount TV.
The Warriors is set in a depressed New York City, overrun by warring gangs, divided into collection of wildly imaginative and diverse factions. When a potential figure of unity is assassinated at a city-wide gathering, the act is pinned on a Native-American-themed gang from Coney Island, the titular Warriors. The film focuses on certain Warriors rushing through a dangerous, almost post-apocalyptic New York in a harrowing race to reclaim their turf.
The original film is a masterclass in narrative commitment. On paper, a flick about a bunch of twenty-somethings fighting and fleeing their way through New York dressed like cast-offs from the Village People is preposterous. In execution, though, Walter Hill’s The Warriors is a gut-wrenching story of fraternity and survival that’s steeped in a style and mythos that somehow (almost magically) works.
As the team charged with resurrecting this potentially tricky tightrope, Marvel’s current standard-bearers are uniquely suited to bring The Warriors to the small screen. Even better, the duo’s filmography is cohesive enough to provide some glimpse into what a series based on the cult classic film might look like.
The Costumes Will Stick Around
Part of the reason that The Warriors has persevered through the decades is due to the original film’s costume designers. Each of New York’s gangs have their own unique style. The Lizzies are all frizzy-haired scrappers, the Punks wear overalls and rugby shirts, and the Baseball Furies all look like what would happen if Marcel Marceau rode the bench for the 1927 Yankees.
All in all, there are 21 various gangs featured in The Warriors. And those are just the ones that get mentioned or actually appear in the film. In truth, the filmmakers crafted dozens of gangs to help populate their treacherous version of New York.
The various styles of each gang lends The Warriors a fantasy film tone that helps make the straightforward plot all the more interesting to watch unfold. Obviously, the guys who just choreographed a superhero ballet will want to preserve some of the pageantry for which the original film is known.
On the level, most of the humor you’ll find in The Warriors comes with an “oh my God, I-can’t-believe-they’re-taking-this-so-seriously edge to it. The film is developed well enough that the characters are easy enough to root for, but however frightening the chain-wielding Boppers might be, they’re still rocking fedoras and matching purple-satin vests. Sure, they can throw down, but that doesn’t change the fact that their uniform is inherently silly. It’s also pretty much the only kind of comedy to be found in The Warriors.
On the other hand, the Russos made their bones working on some of the most lauded cult-comedy programs of the last decade. Their on-the-nose, Groucho Marx-style delivery was a wonderful compliment to Arrested Development, Community, and the criminally underrated Happy Endings.
You can expect their clever, yet easily accessible humor to get mixed into the series’ formula, just as they’ve done with their Marvel outings. More promising than the Russo Bros’ demonstrated comedic ability is their ability to adroitly mix humor and action in a way that mutually develops the story as a whole (see: Captain America: The Winter Soldier).
Coherent, But Brutal Fight Scenes
In The Warriors, the movie’s star gang shows up to a gang summit completely unarmed in accordance with the request of the meeting’s organizer, Cyrus. When Cyrus is unceremoniously murdered at the rally, the Warriors are left completely defenseless miles from their home. As a result, the gang members are forced to rely on their hand-to-hand combat skill when confronting their enemies.
There might be some guns in the movie, but the majority of the film’s violence centers on chaotic brawls. Hill oversees the brutality with incredible control, ramping up the violence with chaotic quick cuts that never fail to coalesce into a workable whole. Luckily for fans of the original, the Russo Bros. already know their way around a good fistfight.
All the Sweet, Sweet World Building
Like last year’s Mad Max: Fury Road, The Warriors crafted a complete world and dropped the audience wholesale into it, requiring them to figure it out for themselves. What that means for viewers of a future series is that there already exists incredible potential for expanded stories that run the gamut from silly to terrifying to flat-out bloody.
Rockstar Games already proved as much with their well-received 2005 video game, which wasn’t content to focus solely on the chase captured in the film. Instead, Rockstar chose to portray some events leading up to the film, like the founding of the Warriors and the reasoning behind Cyrus’s call for the summit. The result was a sprawling gang opera that made use of the film’s previously established ensemble cast while breaking new narrative ground.
Assuming their current track record holds up, there’s absolutely nothing to worry about on this front. Not only would it be foolish to set an entire series around a single chase (i.e. we’ll be getting some new stories), but the Russos have already proven that when it comes to taking the baton of an established universe and running with it, there’s no one better equipped in the industry.
Good News For Fans of Eloquent Cheese
The Warriors shouldn’t work. Just reading the plot description, the film should be a calamitous, offensive mess. By committing to the costumed fantasy of a deeply divided New York and grounding the story in grim, real-world stakes, Walter Hill’s 1979 classic is elevated into something truly special. If there’s anyone in Hollywood who seems equipped to pull off that same impressive feat with gusto, it’s the two-man outfit who made a spangly Boy Scout seem complex and relevant.