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In Walter Hill’s stylized and slightly surreal cult hit The Warriors, the street gangs of New York dress in matching theme outfits, as though they are all British pop groups from the 1960s. There are the Baseball Furies (heavy face paint and pinstriped uniforms); the High-Hats (mimes, basically); the Lizzies (a tastefully trashy biker chick vibe), and the relatively tweedy Warriors themselves, who rock matching sleeveless maroon leather vests.

There are hundreds of equally colorful gangs in the city, and one night each gang is invited to send nine delegates to a special conclave being held in the Bronx. It turns out that the charismatic Cyrus, leader of the highly respected Gramercy Riffs (matching leather jackets, sunglasses, bling) wants to propose an unprecedented alliance. All the city’s gangs combined, Cyrus argues, would number in the tens of thousands; they could evict the police and rule New York City.

This enticing idea seems, for a moment, as though it will unify New York’s gang culture (the assembled delegates seem to be digging it, anyway), but tragedy strikes: Cyrus is assassinated mid-speech, and in the confusion, the Warriors are wrongly accused to committing the crime. Now being hunted by 60,000 enemies, the gang must fight its way back to the safety of its home turf of Coney Island.

Based on Sol Yurick’s 1965 novel, The Warriors takes a simple premise and propels it forward with admirable speed and efficiency. While many directors would choose to make a movie of this kind look gritty and rough around the edges, Hill goes in another direction, creating a sleek dystopian New York that seems eerily depopulated, its deserted streets glistening; only the gangs seem to venture out after dark, tuning into the radio station that delivers coded messages read by Lynn Thigpen in a series of extreme close-ups (Thigpen, incongruously, also plays The Eagles).

It seems strange today that the movie generated so much controversy upon its release; there was a good deal of worry that it would incite gang violence. And in fact there were some violent incidents between rival gangs that happened to show up at the same theater to see it, causing the movie’s theatrical run to be cut short. But those concerns were clearly rooted in the anxieties of Carter-era America, not in anything you see on-screen. Because the gangs in The Warriors aren’t much tougher than the ones we saw in West Side Story, though they tend to be, on the whole, snappier dressers.

The Warriors is a lot more fun than West Side Story, though, and as a movie it works a lot better than Hill’s even more stylized retro-future fantasy Streets of Fire (1984) — Michael Popham

THE WARRIORS screens Friday and Saturday, July 10 and 11, at 7:00 and 9:00, and Sunday, July 12 at 5:00 and 7:00.  There will also be a special 10:00 am screening on Saturday, July 11 with a book club discussion of Sol Yurick’s novel The Warriors to follow at Moon Palace Books around the corner. Advance tickets are $8.00. and you can purchase them here.

 

 

 

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Hard Boiled was the last Asian crime drama John Woo made before he decamped to Hollywood and began turning out profitable but ultimately forgettable fare like Broken Arrow and Face Off.  Woo’s American films suffered without their distinctive Hong Kong backdrop; and also suffered for the lack of his go-to leading man, Chow-Yun Fat.

This outing has a standard-issue gangster plot and all the John Woo trimmings: hyperviolent gun fights between opponents with apparently unlimited ammunition, people flying through the air firing two pistols at once; and seemingly indestructible leading men. Police detective “Tequila” Yuen  (Chow-Yun Fat) is a tough cop who plays by his own rules, the kind of guy who can engage in a blood-soaked running battle in a teahouse and walk away without a scratch, toothpick still clenched in his granite jaw.

This particular teahouse shootout resulted in the death of Tequila’s partner. Tequila knows that the guys who killed him were engaged in gun-running, and he knows the goons were in the employ of an up-and-coming gangster named Johnny Wong. But he doesn’t know that Wong has key people in the police department on his payroll; or that Tequila’s estranged girlfriend (Teresa Mo) is unwittingly being used as a mule to deliver orders to the crooked cops in Wong’s employ.

This hyperkinetic and mesmerizing ballet of stylized violence is one of Woo’s best, sporting a legendary final action set-piece, and serves as a perfect showcase for Chow-Yun Fat’s brand of tough-guy mayhem.  –Michael Popham

 

Our engagement of HARD BOILED is made possible through the support of Asian Media Access. The film screens Monday and Tuesday, July 6 and 7 at 7:00 and 9:30 at the Trylon. Tickets are $8.00, and you can purchase them here.

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From the moment you read its title on a theater marquee, it’s clear that EARTH VERSUS THE FLYING SAUCERS is the kind of movie that means business. This economical little thriller imagines aliens from a dying solar system attempting to conquer our planet, and they are not the sort of adversaries who mess around. First they contact an Earth scientist (Hugh Marlowe) to ask for a parley; when that overture is ignored, they stage a brutal attack on global military installations. Then it’s off to Washington, D.C. to demand our unconditional surrender.  What will we do?

Well, this is America circa 1955, isn’t it? “When an armed and threatening power lands uninvited in our capitol,” one general declares crossly, “we don’t meet him with tea and cookies!”

What’s that you say? The invaders possess technology hundreds of years in advance of our own, and we don’t stand a chance? Pull yourself together, hippie!  American grit and know-how is a match for any threat — no matter where it comes from. But can we defeat the invaders before we — not to mention the most iconic monuments in the nation’s capitol — are wiped out?

This was the second of three collaborations between producer Charles Schneer and special effects master Ray Harryhausen, and while it lacked the Technicolor polish of 1953’s War of the Worlds it’s still one of the best alien invasion movies you’ll ever see. Its fast-placed plot and zeal for destroying D.C. landmarks was aped four decades later by the bigger-budget but vastly inferior Independence Day (1996).

Sure, you could head to the local megaplex this weekend to watch the new Avengers movie or the new Terminator movie or the new Fast and Furious movie. But the best action film out there this weekend is Earth Vs. the Flying Saucers. –Michael Popham

 

EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS screens Friday and Saturday, July 3 and 4 at 7:00 and 9:00, and Sunday, July 5 at 5:00 and 7:00 at the Trylon. Advance tickets are $8.00, and you can purchase them here.