1990: The Bronx Warriors (1982)

This is like a personal wet dream of a film. Marco Di Gregorio of the Thunder trilogy, Fred Williamson, and George Eastman all star in a movie that cribs heavily from The Warriors, Escape from New York, and the likes of The Exterminator and Mad Max 2, but manages to come across even hokier in the process.

The year is 1990. The Bronx is officially No Man’s Land and is ruled over by a variety of gangs under the thumb of the mighty Ogre. Trash is the leader of one of these gangs, a motorcycle outfit with a thing for skulls and Nazi iconography. But he’s just gotten a new girl, the future heiress of the Manhattan Corporation, so now the cops, the Manhattan Corporation, a mercenary, treacherous gang members, and rival gangs are all out to get him.

The two leads of this movie, Marco Di Gregorio (Mark Gregory of not only the Thunder trilogy but also Warbus 2) and Stefania Girolami, have the charisma and chemistry of a pair of wet paper bags. But any time I have doubts, blaxploitation star Fred Williamson shows up in a purple shirt to set me straight. I don’t even care that the evil Zombies gang is a bunch of martial artist hockey players on roller skates that run a creepy dojo for European dudes in unitards right next to an open sewer. Or that there is a dance troupe disguised as a gang that thinks face paint is scary. Sure, that baseball team in The Warriors was freaky. But sparkly vests and butterfly wings on your cheeks just don’t intimidate in the same way.

This being an Italian exploitation film of the early 1980s, the music is actually quite good. There is a scene early on where Trash’s motorcycle gang arrives to find one of their men is impaled on a piece of driftwood, when Ogre’s boys roll up in hot rods to reveal the guy was a spy. All of this is set to a steady beat as one lone dude sits on the sideline and plays the drum without a care in the world. Somehow this lone crazy drummer makes the whole situation work and ties the whole thing together, taking it from silly to cool despite the bizarre nature of his situation. Once the scene is over, we never see the little drummer boy again. But it draws attention to the soundtrack, which is heavy on late ’70s and early ’80s rock stylings. Sure, the dialogue sounds awful, but that music? Man, that music makes it.

This was the first of a trilogy of “post-apocalyptic” Mad Max-inspired gang movies from director Enzo G. Castellari. He would go on to direct Williamson and Eastman again in The New Barbarians before returning to work with Di Gregorio in the sequel to The Bronx Warriors, called Escape from the Bronx or Escape 2000 depending on where you see it. The easiest way to see this sequel is probably to track down the Mystery Science Theater 3000 version.

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