Coming back from our Bruce Willis Adventure in 1997 our flex capacitor* went haywire and UMPHH! Takashi and I crash-landed in 1983. Not just any 1983 though. An appropriate Hollywood lead in might sound a little something like this:
“In a world where crime rules the streets. Where hooligans wait on every corner to rape, rob, murder, rape and well, apparently rape again. A world where young men stand around conversing in whitey tighties and towels and, perhaps most disturbing of all, Richard Roundtree, a.k.a. muthafuckin’ SHAFT plays second fiddle cop to ‘Detective’ Ernest Borgnine. A world where one group of often shirtless, grab-ass playing, frizzy-haired guys from Malibu High are fed up with the crime ruling the streets of ah, Malibu? And they just aren’t going to take it anymore!!!
I knew we had arrived when I saw the VHS ‘big box’ – yep, that’s right, we’d landed in the world of the YOUNG WARRIORS!
I’m not sure what strange collaboration of creative geniuses put this film together but I’m pretty sure they were the kind of creators who dreamt of having all of the many mouth-watering benefits of 80’s cinema rolled into one long-winded, violent as fuck mega-movie. Young Warriors starts off like something from the Porky’s genre and ends up I Spit On Your Grave. It’s as if the director was in direct competition with the director of BOYS NEXT DOOR to see who could make the more fucked up, homo-erotic testosterone shoot-em up. Young Warriors can very easily be laughed at but it is also, I think a far darker and more violent film than most of the stuff major studios were doing at the time and maybe even some of the borderline Grindhouse stuff that was still clinging to the toilet bowl of the independent market at the time. Seriously, where else have you seen joyous fraternity pranks juxtaposed with teenage rape and murder? Probably nowhere. I hope.
You’ll have noticed I’ve already mentioned the films penchant for rape several times. This is a topic I generally find repulsive in cinema. Granted, if a filmmaker wants to impart some message or drama conceived in the agonies of such a heinous crime I can judge on a case by case basis how I feel about the material and handling**. But call me crazy, when a near-victim is rescued only to be led across the camera with her chest hanging out of her blouse I have to call into question the creators’ intentions.
Young Warriors tries so hard to stub out it’s juvenal side like a $5 imitation Havana and explode from its ashes a hardcore, message driven action/exploitation flick. Yet at the same time they counteract these motives constantly. When one of the group dies the other guys replace him on their nightly crime hunt with a freakishly oversize French poodle who, after wearing a Miller High Life ball cap during the Porky’s portion of the film is now decked out in camoflague hat and sunglasses.
See where this is going? No? Neither did I so let me just rattle off a quick list of some of the bizarre stuff you’ll see if you order this fucker from Ebay for $9.99:
A young Jonah Hill look alike pick an olive up and transport it into a martini glass – with his ass cheeks.
A swarm of pigs crash a fraternity initiation party in a country bar, ripping women’s clothes off and smashing the gluttonous party platters to the ground.
A helicopter shot down with a rifle and fall directly into a used car lot causing a borderline mushroom cloud explosion. (NICE).
Lots of those staccato fade-back edits to emphasize dramatic moments; and the close up on eyes that was ‘high-concept’ during this period of film – think of the seen in Scarface where Scarry finds Manny with his sister and the camera jumps closer and closer on his eyes as the synth drones on in angry suspense building waves. But here in Young Warriors land the technique is employed more often and about 400x more drawn out and ridiculous.
As for the cast Ernest Borgnine’s part as Police detective and father of the murdered teenage girl and our male protagonist requires him to express a range of emotions: stoic, angry, violent, and pain the likes of which a father reserves for the senseless brutalization of his only daughter. Borgy plays it all off indescriminantly, half the time coming off like he’s defending the Simpson children and their friends from a bear in the woods with a swiss army knife he just can’t find.
James Van Patton plays our main Warrior Kevin, whose sister was the victim to set him and his friends off on their confused and violent vigilante path. Van patton is, well, not good here but then again maybe that is a relative expectation for an 80’s film that banked on Borgnine’s name to give it some level of credibility. So I’ll retract and say that Van Patton’s performance is not good for a movie but perhaps more fitting the level one would expect from the street thugs on an episode of HUNTER. Not to insult Hunter because I love that shit.
Let’s talk technique – his film doesn’t have any. It’s edited in such a slipshod fashion that it is hard to believe. Every scene has that springed-into feeling, as if when they start you can still hear the echo of the director’s call to ‘Action’ receding into the background of the soundtrack. Time lapses in jagged and non-sequitor blocks and nobody is ever where they should be following the last scene you saw them in. At one point, just after the helicopter crash Roundtree takes a bullet and Borgnine is feverishly trying to get someone to follow the bad guys. Then the next scene, because the director needs him at home with his wife when Kevin’s girlfriend shows up to tell them she’s seen him and his friends shooting up crooks in a convience store there he is, ready to help advance the film to the next dramatic moment even if it makes no sense that he’s not either still out on the hunt or at his wounded partner’s side. Maybe he stopped home to drop a deuce. No one, especially someone with Borgnine’s 1983 blossoming portly form likes pooping in public, especially when there are blood thirsty gangs on the loose.
In the end Young Warriors was a terrible movie but a laugh out loud, fun as all hell two hours and if I found the big box copy for $4 at a swap meet I’d buy it. If only to re-watch it and ponder the ultimate puzzle from that strange and golden period of cinema:
Why does every 80’s movie have to have an aerobics scene?
* I do not want to meet Lucas or Spielberg’s lawyers.
** I’m hyper-sensitive to this lately as every ‘uncut’ edition is essentially a ‘Rape scene included’ edition. Can someone tell me where to find the theatrical version of Rob Zombie’s Halloween on DVD? I hear they cut the best scene in the film and replaced it with a rape scene in the Uncut version.
Behind every great book adaptation is a forgettable first try. — By Ryan Covey