The Bronx Warriors (1982)
By: Stuart Giesel on September 28, 2013 | Comments
Shameless | All Regions, PAL | 2.35:1 (16:9 enhanced) | English DD 1.0 | 88 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Credits
Director: Enzo G. Castellari
Starring: Vic Morrow, Christopher Connelly, Fred Williamson, Mark Gregory, Stefania Girolami
Screenplay: Dardano Sacchetti, Elisa Briganti, Enzo G. Castellari
Country: Italy
Cult Italian director and shlock-cinema fave Enzo G. Castellari directed three apocalyptic films that remain cult favourites to this day: 1990: The Bronx Warriors, Escape from the Bronx and The New Barbarians. All three movies are ridiculous but undeniably fun. Shameless' DVD release of The Bronx Warriors (as it's titled here, ditching the 1990 tag) is probably the definitive home video version you're likely to find for this cheap, entertaining and kitschy film.

The year is 1990, or 1990 as imagined back in 1982 as a crumbling dystopia. It's not exactly made clear how the apocalypse happened, or how widely it's spread, but at the very least the New York Bronx has been declared "No Man's Land" where the police won't go and the gangs rule. A woman named Ann (Stefania Girolami) is groomed to become president of mega-corp The Manhattan Corporation, but doesn't want to so she runs away and gets accosted by a gang. She's saved by leader of rival biker gang The Riders, whose name happens to be Trash (played by the beautifully wooden Mark Gregory) and, naturally, she falls for him. The Manhattan Corporation wants Ann back, so they send in legendary bounty hunter Hammer (Vic Morrow) to get her out of the Bronx. The corporation, and Hammer for that matter, has no qualms with using brutal force to get Ann back, so Trash teams up with Bronx king Ogre (Fred Williamson) to fight the corporation's goons. Unfortunately for Trash, he has to also contend with dissatisfaction in his ranks, most personified by his second-in-command Ice (Joshua Sinclair), who's a turncoat and a real dickwad.

The silly gang elements in The Bronx Warriors, like the gang called The Zombies who rollerblade and look like rejects from an 80's music video, immediately invites comparison to Walter Hill's The Warriors. And it's not just The Warriors that The Bronx Warriors rips off - it feels as much a cheap clone of Mad Max and Escape from New York too. But it's the goofy charm that makes The Bronx Warriors so unabashedly entertaining, because God forbid we have to rely on traditional cinematic elements such as characterisation, acting or dialogue. The Bronx Warriors embraces its low-rent origins, and makes full use of its distinctive Bronx setting to sell this grungy, yet amusing, apocalyptic scenario.

Beyond the predictable story and non-existent character development between Trash, his minions and Ann, are the sort of minor details that truly make The Bronx Warriors one of a kind. A gang meeting by the river is punctuated by a lone drummer, who sits out in the middle of nowhere playing some drum solos because...well, just because. In this very same scene, you can see the cars driving across what I take to be the Brooklyn Bridge (are we meant to be in the Bronx here?), despite the fact that we're meant to be in the aftermath of an apocalypse, and yet it looks like it's business as normal as far as everything's concerned and all we're seeing are a bunch of morons hooning around in cosplay (which we are, but it does shatter the illusion that the filmmakers were trying to create). Mark Gregory is done up in unbelievably tight jeans, so he fights with the look like he's struggling not to shit himself in mid-shot, and walks around like he has a titanium rod for a spine. An awfully, utterly stilted, "romantic" scene takes place by the beach like we're suddenly in a Hallmark moment. Silver-clad fuckwits with top hats and walking canes ponce around like reject Las Vegas dancing hopefuls, culminating in a dire "fight" scene with some of Trash's gang members. Another gang of white-faced underground dwellers appear like something out of a Cannibal Holocaust cosplay convention.

And nothing makes sense. Trash has just met Ann, and immediately after an informant who had been wearing a bug is killed - how the hell did The Manhattan Corporation infiltrate the gang with a plant so quickly? There's a ropey funeral scene where a bonfire somehow turns bodies to ash - bone and all. Trash needs to go through the Bronx (and the lairs of various gangs) to get to the other side where Ogre and Ann are, yet Hammer magically appears almost right next to them out of nowhere.

Adding to the ridiculousness of it all are the frequently baffling decisions made by the characters and the ludicrousness of the moronic dialogue. Here's an example of the sterling dialogue contained herein: "They gotta be crazy in the head" says a biker upon witnessing some cops show up in the Bronx. Another says immediately after, "Silly assfuckers!" There are some other choice bits: "Just keep talkin', fag-face, and I'll tear your fuckin' lid off" and "You fuck, look it could be a pile of shit outta somebody's asshole". Gold.

Because it's a cheapie Italian knock-off of better-known films, the production feels haphazard, yet it adds to the film's charm. Acting is mostly ordinary. Mark Gregory, he of the incredibly tight jeans and open vest, is a pretty forgettable lead, but fortunately he has Fred Williamson and Vic Morrow to lean on for support. Morrow is the film's standout as the brutal, unforgiving Hammer - unlike Williamson, who plays The Ogre tongue-in-cheek and is clearly having fun with the part, Morrow plays Hammer completely straight, possibly misinterpreting the sort of film he was involved in.

By today's standards the violence is quite tame, and what violence there is - such as a late-film decapitation - is hampered by the shoddy effects work. Then again, you might want to chalk this up as another of The Bronx Warriors' charms.

Yet despite all this, or perhaps because of all this, The Bronx Warriors is like a slightly retarded and enthusiastic puppy - you can't help but love the shit out of it despite the fact it tends to piss itself at inconvenient moments. It's dumb as hell, yet odd and strangely endearing, hardly a glimpse of hell on earth but rather a snapshot of idiots gone wild.
The Disc
Shameless Screen Entertainment have to be commended for bringing films like The Bronx Warriors, and more obscure exploitation gems, to home video, usually packaged with decent extras. Their Bronx Warriors release is no exception. The anamorphic widescreen transfer is probably as good as we're going to get for a film of this type - it's not like any distributor is going to spend the money for a 4K transfer. It certainly is a product of its low budget origins, with occasionally murky and grainy cinematography. But there are scenes with strong use of colour and the detail is pretty good throughout. I did notice a slightly annoying blue tint on the extreme left side of the picture when watching the movie on PC, though it didn't show up on my TV or projector. Audio is satisfactory, though there are inconsistencies - the music playing over the funeral pyre scene sounds blown out; there are a few audio tears, and dialogue sounds like it was recorded post-production and doesn't always sync (I assume most if not all dialogue was added later). Sound effects are clumsily incorporated into the finished product - i.e. a grappling hook is fired and there's a metal *clink* as the hook meets rock, but the rope is still travelling unimpeded. Still, it's hard to nitpick when this sort of thing adds to the film's ditzy charm.

The special features are decent enough, though hardly comprehensive. There are International, US Video and UK Video trailers. You can watch the title credits sequence in both English and Italian (woo!) and there is a gallery of lobby cards and posters for the film. The Fact Track is pretty good - you can play the movie and occasionally some subtitled facts will appear, providing sporadically interesting tidbits. Take, for example, the scene by the water where the gangs meet - that drummer out in the middle of nowhere was simply found at the scene and incorporated into the film to add some surrealism. The main feature on the disc is "Warriors, Barbarians and Basterds" - An Interview with maestro Enzo G. Castellari. This is a nearly half-hour interview with the affable director; Enzo speaks in English, which I thought was pretty good but the interview still contains English subtitles in case you can't quite understand him (there are interjections by editor Gianfranco Amicucci who speaks only in Italian). Castellari talks about his shooting style (and copying the stylistic slo-mo from Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch) and some of the tricks he uses in the three apocalyptic movies to stretch their low budgets and make them look like they have more extras, costumes and props then they actually did. He also talks about how he cast Mark Gregory and what it was like to work with Morrow, Williamson, George Eastman, Henry Silva (who appears in the third apocalypse film, Escape from the Bronx) and his daughter (who played Ann in Bronx Warriors) and more. It's a great interview, well worth your time. Finally, the release comes with a reverse DVD inset with alternative cover.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
Beautifully dumb and consistently entertaining, Enzo Castellari's The Bronx Warriors benefits from its authentic NY shooting locations and a truly strange combination of the outrageously camp, the blatantly exploitative and the endearingly idiotic. Cult films probably don't come more cult-ier than this.
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