Why We Love…The Wanderers

This is an odd choice of film for me to write about; it’s not a famous one, it’s not even one that’s talked about by a lot of pretentious media studies types. In fact, I’ve yet to meet anybody outside of my family who knows about this film, I’ve met people who think they know it, but they actually mean The Warrior’s, which I still haven’t actually seen.

This is probably the first film I remember watching at home. My family owned it on video, I say “my family” because I’m not entirely sure to whom it belonged, but I suspect it belonged to my brother, who went through a phrase of watching american gang films such as this, Boyz N The Hood etc.

So why do I love this? It’s odd, as unlike a lot of films from that era there’s not many “hey it’s that guy” moments. In fact the biggest name in this is probably Karen Allen, who most of you will know from Indiana Jones but I know from the infinitely superior Scrooged. That doesn’t mean the performances aren’t good though, John Friedrich as Joey in particular has a certain something which makes his character likeable despite being a bit of a dick.

I do worry that a small part of my love this is based around the music though. This has one of the most perfect soundtracks I’ve ever seen/heard. A good collection of classic 60’s tunes guaranteed to raise a smile (including a song you may recognise from the new Fallout advert). Which brings me onto the next point: this film portrays a definitive change in culture, from the somewhat innocent nature of the 60’s, through to the violence of the 70’s. One of the plot points shows this perfectly: what starts as a bunch of racial slurs in the class room means they organise a gang fight for later in the month, with them agreeing “no guns or knives”, which then gets turned into a football game. It then becomes a lot darker as this game breaks out into the most violent gang fight of the film. The fight at the end is almost the film equivalent of the Rolling Stones at Altamont. Optimism and peace are replaced by violence and despair. At first this sudden darkness seems to have come out of nowhere, and then you realise the undercurrents have been there all along: one of the main character’s has died, JFK has been assassinated, one of the other characters is clearly being beaten by his dad, you just haven’t noticed because of the bright colours and wonderful music. Although it does end with a nice sing song, although it’s taking place at the engagement party of a shotgun wedding so…..

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