Episode 49 - 1990: The Bronx Warriors (1982)
The Bronx Warriors is one of those movies that just seems lost in translation. Made by the prolific Italian grindhouse director Enzo G. Castellari (The Inglorious Bastards), this is a film clearly aimed at imitating the success of The Road Warrior, Escape From New York, and The Warriors but with a bizarre broadway-esque twist.
What classifies movies as being part of the "grindhouse" is their function of replicating other ideas from more successful movies and rushing something onto the screen in order to catch fire and appeal to audiences hungry for more of the same. We see these in many direct-to-video efforts today but in the 1970's and 1980's these movies were produced for the big screen and shown in seedy theaters and drive-ins.
What sets these movies apart from their big-budget counterparts is their lack of story and direction. They typically were formed around an idea (such as: post-apocalyptic gangs) and then the screenwriters and directors were left to fill in the blanks. The producers and financiers had no real concerns about the story or whether the movie was any good; they only cared about the concept and how quickly it could be made to cash in before the audiences move on to the next craze.
Many times eager foreign or domestic directors would sign onto these films with minuscule budgets and insane shooting schedules to get their chance at making "their" movie. With the freedom to write and produce basically anything they wanted under the guidelines given to them (and with minimal studio interference) this could be their only opportunity to direct the movie they always wanted to make; sort of.
The Bronx Warriors is certainly a case of a director doing nearly everything he can to make a movie he wants to make within the guidelines given to him by the producers. The Bronx Warriors is only related to The Road Warrior, Escape From New York, and The Warriors in setting only. The story is something done hundreds of times before but what's contained between the lines of this film is something truly weird and unique - if only because of it's surrounding settings.
While it's not technically a musical, The Bronx Warriors is very much a Broadway inspired action movie. Set in a completely lawless 1990's Bronx in New York City, various street gangs control what's left of the territory. These "gangs" are all impeccably designed with matching costumes, vehicles, painted faces, and not a speck of dirt in sight. The world around them is a pile of rubble but the presentation of the gangs is something you would see at a theme park. Not only do they look the part, but the gangs have all choreographed intricate fight-dances to ward off rival gangs.
Now you might be wondering, how the hell does this all work within a post-apocalyptic setting? It doesn't. In fact, it very much seems like a movie being made within the walls of another movie, which makes for a fascinating piece of art that simply can't be replicated. This is truly a one-of-a-kind film, there are many like it but none replicate the sheer madness found in this film.
In typical Italian fashion, every line of dialogue is ADR'ed - even the American actors - and none of the words seem to match the actor's performances. In fact, the main actor Mark Gregory didn't even speak English and was only 17 at the time the movie was filmed. Cast purely for his looks and nothing else - as if the actor would somehow morph into an Arnold Schwarzenegger when the camera started rolling.
The Bronx Warriors is not unique in it's existence but it's certainly unique in is content. There are hundreds of movies like this out there but none exactly the same. This is what makes grindhouse cinema so special, hidden gems like The Bronx Warriors that exist among a pile of rubble. A movie begging to be seen and talked about, a movie trying desperately to escape from the prison it's confined in, but right at home where it is.