Junkfood Cinema: 1990: The Bronx Warriors

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Editor’s Note: We hope you enjoy this new Friday afternoon column, Junkfood Cinema, by Brian Salisbury. It celebrates movies that are so bad, even though they are also sometimes so good. For more (coming each and every Friday), stay tuned to the Junkfood Cinema Archive. Also, please feel free to let us know what you think of this new weekly feature in the comment section below.

Hello all. Perhaps you are wondering as to the reason I was rejected by every film school in the tri-state area. I wish I could say it was because I was caught night putting with the dean’s daughter or because I drank my weight in scotch and accidentally burned down an archives building. But alas, it is because I have a well-documented addiction to cinema crapiteé. I enjoy quality films like any other respectable film critic, but all too often I find myself pining for the simple, cheesy goodness of a b-film. I don’t know what it is about them that attract me; obviously I am aware of their shortcomings. But there is a comfort and/or nostalgia and/or transcendent entertainment value to these films that I can’t seem to ignore. It’s very much like junkfood in that way; it’s bad for me, but I can’t stop watching. So instead of overcoming my addiction, I have decided to launch this column to share of few of my favorite celluloid snacks with you. My hope is that it will provide fodder for your must-see lists or at least give you something to watch in that coveted midnight time slot. Each week I will provide a breakdown of the film and also an appropriate junkfood pairing to perfectly complement the experience.

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1990: The Bronx Warriors

Directed by: Enzo Castellari

Written by: Elisa Briganti, Enzo Castellari, Dardano Sacchetti

Starring: Vic Morrow, Fred “The Hammer” Williamson, Mark Gregory

When you think of Italy, what comes to mind? Perhaps you think of the fine dining and exquisite shopping or maybe the extensive, rich history. If you are a film connoisseur, perhaps you think of the post-neorealist period of Federico Fellini with its heavy Jungian inspiration. Me? I think of lax copyright laws. Welcome to the wonderful world of Italian Knockoff Films. During the 1980’s, which unlike Dr. Abaius is my favorite period for film, there were a number of Italian filmmakers who realized that American audiences could be easily duped. All you needed to do to make a buck was take a film that was popular in the states, strip aways its budget, and flirt carelessly with plagiarism. So if John Carpenter creates a sensation with a film called Escape From New York, then all you need to do is shamelessly mimic that film with an eighth of the budget and call it…After the Fall of New York. Yeah, this is a real thing. Along those same lines, today’s film is a blatant ripoff of The Warriors called 1990: Bronx Warriors.

What Makes It Bad?

Cheesy characters who deliver their dubbed lines as if they are constipated. Two good actors who are obviously just there to pick up a check. Like many Italian Knockoff Films, this movie takes place in a post-apocalyptic society. The film takes advantage of this fact and uses derelict, abandoned buildings as set pieces to reduce production costs. What’s funny is that, unlike Road Warrior or Escape From New York, both of which were also constantly ripped off by this subgenre, The Warriors did not take place in a post-apocalyptic society so the setting really highlights the favoritism of the bottom line.

Fight sequences that seem choreographed by Mrs. Johnson’s fifth grade class at recess.

Why I Love It!

Movies like this are hilarious in their ineptitude. In 1990: Bronx Warriors, you can boil all the hilarity down to a single point of reference: the main character. Like the protagonist character in The Warriors, Trash is a butch badass who takes no crap from anybody…or at least that is how it must have been written. What we get instead is the most obviously gay macho hero in the history of film. I have no problem with gay characters in film, but it’s like watching your high school’s musical where the romantic lead is played by the gayest kid in your class; it’s just awkward to watch him make out with the ingenue. But I’ll be damned if it isn’t funny.

1990: Bronx Warriors features Fred “The Hammer” Williamson proving that he can be the quintessential badass even while wearing Olivia Newton-John’s headband and a puffy shirt. Hooray! Also, despite the terrible fight sequences, this film does feature a scene with the most flame-thrower deaths in all of moviedom. The climax of the film really showcases the directors penchant for melting his actors.

There are so many over-the-top moments to this that pseudo-creatively borrow from The Warriors. For example, The Warriors features those super cool, weirdo Furies gang sporting the baseball uniforms and facepaint. It was a little outlandish but also grounded in the fact that their gang’s focal point was a giant park. So what does 1990: Bronx Warriors give us? How about a gang of Broadway dancers painted up like the Ultimate Warrior and brandishing dancing canes? Yes these Bob Fosse rejects pirouette their way into the lame villain hall of fame.

Cram all this into one choppy “story” and season with watching the antagonist’s corpse getting towed through the streets by our hero and you’ve got a haphazard copy of The Warriors that lives on another planet. I would recommend this to anyone who A.) enjoys bad post-apocalyptic films B.) thought The Warriors was too straight or C.) owns a flamethrower they’ve been dying to use but never had the motivation.

Junkfood Pairing:

Hydrox Cookies — What better than the Oreo knockoffs to complement this once-in-a-lifetime experience. You get all the sugar, carbs, and various dyes for half the price…and half the deliciousness.

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Longtime FSR columnist, current host of FSR’s Junkfood Cinema podcast. President of the Austin Film Critics Association.