Gangs of New York

Nowhere to run to: Rent-hating New Yorkers love The Warriors' vision of the city

The depictions of the subway in each film demonstrate their different attitudes to actual, nonfictional NYC. Rent features a song-and-dance number set on the F train in front of anachronistically modern advertisements for the Freelancers Union. It looks like the actors literally piled into a car at Second Avenue sometime last winter to shoot the scene. The Warriors, on the other hand, begins with gangs across the city traveling along subway routes that no longer exist. These scenes are intercut with close-ups on an outdated MTA map, its lines all dusty blues and burnt siennas. Rent's subway resides in some realer-than-real limbo between Columbus's "authentic" '80s and our own moment, whereas the subway of The Warriors is a relic from the past hurtling through the future, displaced doubly from contemporary fans.

It's impossible to compare Rent and The Warriors without noting that the latter is a much better movie. Rent is structurally lopsided; its midfilm headaches over what it means to be "living in America at the end of the millennium" destroy all the joyous momentum built up in the first half of the story. The Warriors, on the other hand, is stylishly single-minded—much like its heroes—and so its plot moves elegantly and fast. For New Yorkers in America at the start of the millennium, this narrative grace offers an unselfconscious reminder of the myths that brought us here.


Izzy Grinspan is a writer living in Brooklyn, which means that she knows from the Freelancers Union.

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