Just got done watching this for the first time. It's on Netflix Instant, the original cut so there weren't any comic book panels or alternate opening. It's strange to experience an Ur-text like this, because the DNA of The Warriors is in nearly every action film of the last 30 years. Needless to say, I liked it quite a bit.
Swan and Ajax are the obvious standouts, and it was weird that Ajax gets removed from the board with so little fanfare, but the entire gang is a blast to watch. This is filmmaking 101 right here, as we only experience a night with them and see them meeting and indoctrinating a new member, Mercy, and yet the little quirks each character actor brings and the screenwriting shorthand is enough to convey a dense history. I can believe that these guys have bled together.
It borders on camp at times, but the surreal, magic-realism feel of the story makes it defy era. It could be the future, or it could be 1979. RoboCop is very similar in how for all intents and purposes it's 1987, but it's also "the not too distant future". This is much more satisfying, in my opinion, grounding the setting in the familiar while allowing for the believable injection of the fantastic.
It's also strange to see the epitome of apocalyptic New York. Growing up a child of the '80s, I was led to believe my entire life that NYC was some hellhole that I never wanted to go to, and then Giuliani has to go in and clean the place up. Having watched Death Wish recently for the first time it's hard to believe that Cyrus' rallying cry for revolution didn't come to pass.
It's unfortunate that the hard boiled streets of The Warriors not only no longer exist but no one in cinema has been able to recreate and translate that feel in the modern day. A triple feature of Assault on Precinct 13, The Warriors, and Escape From New York is a great idea, but I'd also throw The Punisher: War Zone in there as a spiritual brother of those films. It's got the grime and the sleaze, but also that unbridled, wild west feel to it that has been lost in the absence of Peckinpahs and the scarcity of Hills. It's appropriate that Frank Castle was born in this time period...
...which brings me to my favorite part of this film: The Warriors are presented without apology. Much like the recent Attack the Block, although that film does grapple with social issues as an explanation for the protagonists' delinquency, The Warriors are thugs without explanation. Ajax is practically a rapist! Swan shows a bit of disgust, and Mercy obviously envies the prom students on the subway, but that scene in fact brings out a bit of pride from Swan.
I love a movie that embraces all of the freedoms of fiction, and one of those is making criminals sympathetic by portraying them as human rather than noble but misunderstood (ie. the recent Simon Baz Green Lantern character).
Best of all, the slo-mo shots are amazing.