Frat Brothers Fight Crime: YOUNG WARRIORS (1983) Review

If I had a list of people I want to personally shake hands with and thank, Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus would definitely be somewhere at the top. Those two guys were the backer of all the Cannon Films movies and made some truly awesome movies across all genres, from revenge (Exterminator 2) to ninja (Ninja III: The Domination) to horror (New Year’s Evil) to music (Breakin’) and more! Now, get this: a movie about a group of fraternity members who decide to go out at night and fight crime, produced by Cannon, starring James Van Patten, Ernest Borgnine, Richard Roundtree, and Lynda Day George. That right there is a goldmine of fun waiting to be unearthed…right?

YOUNG WARRIORS (1983) Review

Kevin (Van Patten) is living the good life at college. He’s the head of the wildest fraternity on campus, he’s in a very good relationship with his girlfriend, he has a caring and supportive family, and a bright future. However, all that is changed when his young sister is raped and murdered one night by a vicious gang. Kevin, angered at how little the police, including his own father (Borgnine), are doing about it, he decides to gather up his frat buddies and bring out justice their own way. With an arsenal of weapons stolen from the police, they set about cleaning up the streets, but find that vigilantism comes with a price, and taking matters into your own hands isn’t always the best route to take. Can Kevin see the error of his ways before he destroys the lives of both his friends and himself?

Well, that wasn’t quite what I expected. I mean, with a premise like fraternity borthers dishing out justice on the streets, this really should be more...well, fun. But truth be told, it’s not. I can see where the director wanted to take the movie, but with such a great set-up and lots of potential, it was the most inappropriate road to go down. It sounds like a load of chuckles, but it’s just so serious and depressing that it’s hard to enjoy it at all. It’s an interesting take on the vigilante subgenre, but aside from some interesting ideas, there’s really nothing here. Granted, it’s very well made and probably the most realistic portrayl of what would really happen in this kind of situation, but still!

If I had to say one good thing about this movie, I would say it might be the one Cannon movie that actually tried to be serious and good. The script seems intelligent and well thought out, and the cast all do very respectable jobs with their roles. The opening credits are awesome, with Kevin accepting his graduation diploma while riding on a motorcycle followed by a great title song, which seemed to set the tone nicely for things to come. Then there’s the first half-hour which is filled with various fraternity shenanigans which wouldn’t be out of place in any of the comedies coming out around this time. Finally after all this tongue-in-cheek fun, there’s a horrific rape (the actress’s thespian skills were a little questionable, though) that puts a stop to all the fun. Another compliment I can give this movie is how for a majority of it, it’s not leaning towards one opinion on vigilantism, and presents both sides of the argument. On one hand, we have the police doing nothing, and on the other, we have the final result of Kevin’s rampage.

Which brings me to my list of complaints. For one, we don’t really get a feel for the villains. We only really see the gang at the beginning, assorted (and very brief) times in the middle, and at the climax. In stuff like Exterminator 2, we actually spend time with the antagonists so they’re built-up as really despicable villains. Here, we never really know that much about the gang, except that they enjoy raping and killing. Our entire movie is devoted to Kevin’s plight. The other big problem is the action scenes. They either couldn’t afford a stunt choreographer (which I know they could) or they didn’t feel it was necessary because the fights just aren’t awesome. The climax is actually just slow-motion shooting between the gang and Kevin’s posse, and it feels like it goes on for hours. And while the tone is very easy to pick out (dead serious) Kevin’s gang always brings this poodle with them to help them fight crime. What? Was this supposed to be comic relief, because if it was, it wasn’t treated as so.

No, Young Warriors is not a bad film. In fact, it’s probably the smartest movie in Cannon’s incredible catalogue. But it’s just so gosh-darned serious! Despite the presence of some notable actors, a few cool explosions, decent production values, and a premise brimming with golden potential, it heads in the completely opposite direction you expect it to and boy, is it a bumpy ride. I’ve seen some people hail it as a so-bad-it’s-good classic, but I don’t see that. I admire it for trying to do something different with the revenge-movie formula and at times, it can be an interesting look at two perspectives on vigilantism. But the fun is sorely absent. It's just a after school special dressed up in exploitation clothes. This is yet another one not available on DVD yet, and I don’t think we’ll be seeing one any time soon. The VHS does come in one of MGM/UA’s great little book boxes, so at least that’s a plus if you decide to purchase it. But just be prepared for what it offers.

The Verdict: Ushering in some thoughtful opinions and a new take on an old formula, yet throwing out the enjoyment value like week old garbage, Young Warriors is purely middle-of-the-road cinema, but leaning towards trash. The quality of the whole deal makes it bearable.

Score: 4/10

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