1990: The Bronx Warriors | Varied Celluloid

1990: The Bronx Warriors

Posted by Josh Samford On September - 10 - 2008
The Plot: The year is 1990, and the Bronx section of New York has become nothing more than a breeding ground for crime and chaos. The police and the government have simply turned their back on the neighborhood and the gangs have taken over, with The Ogre taking over as the king of the Bronx. However, a small gang of bikers lead by a young man named Trash take the spotlight after their leader interrupts a potential rape lead by rival gang The Zombies on a young woman named Ann. Ann, unknown to anyone, is the daughter of the president in charge of the worlds largest arms dealer. The president of the company has sent in Hammer (Vic Morrow) to establish further chaos between the gangs with the hope of sneaking in, grabbing his daughter and getting out. However, Trash and Ann have fallen in love and the two aren’t willing to give that up simply for daddy. Will these two be able to escape daddy’s claws, make a deal with The Ogre, fight off the zombies AND not fall into Hammer’s plans?




The Review
To completely butcher the works of one of the most famous and respected playwrights in all of history: What’s in a name? That which we call a post-apocalyptic film. By any other name would it not be as quirky? Two things become apparent within the first ten minutes of 1990: The Bronx Warriors, first this is obviously a not-so-coy attempt at cashing in on the popularity of Walter Hill’s masterpiece “The Warriors” and the second thing you’ll notice is that the film follows in much the same path as other popular post-apocalyptic Italian action titles from the period – except there has been no actual apocalypse here. Much like the school kids of Japan in Kenji Fukasaku’s Battle Royale – in Enzo Castellari’s world the Bronx in 1990 became so heavily violent and unruly that the American government just kind of washed their hands of the whole situation and left them to their own devices. So, you can’t technically call it a Post-Apocalyptic scenario, but that’s only if you’re incredibly anal about your genre categorization. Made just two years after The Warriors, Bronx Warriors is far from relaxed in the “borrowing” of that films concepts. Including the whole idea of our warriors having to make it across gang infested territories, and of course the blazingly obvious use of highly cartoonish gangmembers all wearing uncharacteristic uniforms that match professions. There’s a gang of hockey players, tap dancers as well as what appear to be socialites. The film takes from many others as well, including Carpenter’s Escape From New York (by having the dead-zone of the bronx, as well as having a presidential-esque character trapped inside – despite being there of her own free will). Does all of this add up to a failure of a b-movie? Not at all. Enzo G. Castellari shows his talent, once again moving outside the parameters of your average genre film and makes a very fun take on this worn out genre. We all know going into a flick like this that you’re not going to find a lavish script or amazing focus for character development and for what it is, The Bronx Warriors is pretty spectacular.

In one of the most stylish and impressive moments in the film, as well as being a scene that essentially sets up the entire plot for the next 70 minutes, we are treated to a stunning sequence right beside the Brooklyn bridge (and the Bronx this is not). One of the few shots in the film that takes place on location in the US, as most was shot in Italy of course. As we see the familiar bridge in the background, we hear a pulsing drumbeat over the soundtrack as our motorcycle driving leads come into the frame – but as the camera gives us a wider angle we see that the drummer isn’t just in a studio somewhere – he’s right out in this vacant parking lot! That’s right, the drummer is on location providing the music. Why would some guy have his drumset just sitting out in a dusty parking lot? Who knows, but it’s visually intriguing and a fun little twist that keeps the film interesting. As the scene plays out the lead gang’s members all form up in a line that makes a perfect “W”, for the shots that show them from a higher angle. It’s all so ridiculous – but that’s kind of the point: to be over the top and to be interesting and different, as well as to tell a story. That’s why you have characters named Hammer, The Ogre, Hot Dog and Trash. I won’t stick my neck on the chopping block and defend this as spectacular art or anything of that sort, but I see that many on the web have crucified the film and I feel that’s pretty unnecessary when you have such an unabashedly fun little movie such as this. I had a far better time with this movie than I have had with any others I have seen of a similar nature. The New Barbarians, also from Enzo and featuring a few similar cast members (will get to that in a minute) was a lot of fun and I reviewed it recently – but was at times rather dragging and really didn’t feature much I couldn’t find elsewhere, other than the violence that really can’t be beaten, but in the end it’s just a very good little flick that at times teeters on boredom. With 1990: The Bronx Warriors, I didn’t feel any of that. With the incredible mishmash of blatant stealing, homages, far better executed action sequences than films of this type usually have (I won’t lie, there are still a few very obviously pulled punches throughout) as well as a decent bit of the gory violence. However it’s the fast moving script and the characters that kept me impressed the whole time. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Fred “The Hammer” Williamson can make any movie better, and unlike in The New Barbarians he isn’t suppressed here and really lets his toughguy persona hang out in the breeze. Smoking his trademark cigar, using some of that Hammer-fu and generally being as friggin’ cool as The Hammer always is. I really enjoyed him here, but he isn’t alone. You have the late and great Vic Morrow putting in a really great turn as the villainous “Hammer” (not to be confused with Williamson, who uses the nickname offstage as well as on) and really comes into his over-the-top best in the final sequence where he dons a leather military outfit and laughs obnoxiously for no real reason. There are more greats of Italian cinema that pop up like Christopher Connelly, Joshua Sinclair and of course the undisputed villain of the century George Eastman, who puts in a brief but great portrayal of his usual eccentric scumbag – for lack of a better word. Hey, even Enzo himself takes a part as well as his daughter in the role of Ann as the lead female.

You really get the feeling of a family atmosphere with some of Enzo’s casting choices and the film exerts this. I know not everyone is going to feel the same way as I do about the movie. It’s not going to be for all tastes, you really have to be willing to forgive a lot of the budget constraints as well as not take offense at the thievery of the movie and see this as something that makes it just a little goofier and a little more… fun. The fact that no one uses a gun in the movie, which in itself is another ripoff of The Warriors, this isn’t a reason to dislike the movie – who needs a gun when you have Hammer FU!? I’ve said it a lot in the course of the review, but I really did have a blast with The Bronx Warriors and I hope I won’t be the last. Fans of the film, at least to the degree that I am, seem few and far between but you can’t judge a film by what others think – and you’ll never find me saying that my opinion is anything more than what it is. Some will love this movie, others will not and probably hate it as much as I do the Italian cult classic Burial Ground. I give the film a four out of five, it’s a wicked good time and the best Italian “post apocalyptic” flick I have seen so far. Give it a chance sometime with an open mind, I guarantee you can have fun with this one.

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