Cult Movie Flashback: 1990: The Bronx Warriors (1982, Dir. Enzo G. Castellari)

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I can remember when I was a kid, seeing this movie on the shelf of my local video store. I think my father had rented it too, as he was a big fan of road movies and motorbikes. Bronx Warriors is an Italian apocalypse film which borrows ideas from Mad Max and bringing into the mix some heavy metal haircuts and leather jackets. It’s not as serious as The Wanderers, but this gang movie is far from a comedy either.

Trash is the leader of a biker gang called The Riders that roams the Bronx, which is now a derelict waste land that America has given up on and left to rot. When Anne, a 17-year-old heiress to arms manufacturing giant The Manhattan Corporation, runs away to the Bronx, the Riders take her in.

What I like about the Riders gang is they are all different. We have Trash who for some reason reminds me of the Ultimate Warrior. Then we have Ice who has a look of John Denver, and lastly there is a host of others, one of them being a dead ringer for Freddie Mercury. Yet they have coolness and originality about them as they drive around the wastelands fighting other gangs and being perused by psychopathic mercenary Hammer (Vic Morrow) who turns the various Bronx gangs against each other.

For a film without much funding, it uses what it has wisely. There’s a real creativity to this film, from gangs wearing costumes that look like rejects from Starlight Express, to George Eastman and Fred Williamson popping up as gang leaders. I love the spontaneity of this film. For example, the drummer playing as gangs meet in the opening scene was a real drummer who happened to be there at the time of the shoot so they made him part of the movie. Everything is very theatrical but the way whole movie is played straight. I enjoyed it a lot more than Mad Max.

The stand out performance of this film must go to Vic Morrow, who sadly died on set during his next shoot, Twilight Zone: The Movie.  Another notable fact is that Quentin Tarantino is heavily influenced by the director of Bronx Warriors, Enzo G. Castellari, to the point he remade Castellari’s movie Inglorious Bastards.

What I love about Bronx Warriors is the fact it did so well on its American cinema release. This small scale Italian exploitation movie made it to the top of the box office and thus spawned sequels which were never quite as good. I never tire of watching this film. It fun and is everything I want in an action movie that American movies tend to miss the mark on. Bronx Warriors has a cool honest look to it, one that didn’t cost millions to achieve.

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