James Remar did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Ajax in The Warriors.
Although I do genuinely like the Warriors as a film it's not a film I would describe where the acting really stands out, for the most part anyway. Michael Beck is a bit too stoic as the lead Warrior Swan and most of the other warriors seem pretty interchangeable. The same goes for most of the villains who are more defined by their look then whatever it is that they do, well except for David Patrick Kelly who is always a perfect fit in the role of a slimy weasel. Out of the warriors though there is one performance that stands out and obviously that performance belongs to James Remar. Remar plays Ajax who while not the leader of the Warriors is one of their most prominent members. Ajax wants to be leader and does not mind saying that he's a better man for the job than Swan. Remar's performance, unlike almost every other performance in the film, makes his presence known refusing just to be part of the scenery created by Walter Hill.
Remar's carries himself with a considerable amount of cool early on oozes with the right sort of menace in his performance. Remar's makes himself an imposing bad ass incredibly well, and has a certain charisma with his part that is a tad a lacking with his co-horts in the film. Remar honestly makes you think that Ajax should be the leader simply because Remar carries so much more command with his performance than Beck is able to ever muster with his work. This technical problem is made worse though as Remar just is so much more in the situation with his performance in a physical sense to as he brings the energy needed in the situation, and although you obviously see the fight with the rest of the performances, it is through Remar's performance that you really feel the fight as well. The funny thing though is the film does wish to show us Ajax as a hot
head with the wrong kind of lusts who is too crazy to be the leader, and Remar does not reject this idea either.
Remar is equally effective in showing why Ajax is also far from the ideal leader since he probably likes certain elements of gang life a little too much. Remar's always shows that Ajax has an energy about him, a definite violent energy that is ready to explode at every time. As I wrote before, Remar brings the right physicality to the role as he shows that Ajax almost is always holding himself in a bit since he is ready to explode at any minute. Violence is not all that he loves as Ajax is also a very lusty sort since he is also often preoccupied with women, the problem is for him is he never really stops thinking about the violence either. Remar builds up his character well so when Ajax finally just decides to go on and fight we see the full extent of Ajax's ferocity as a fighter while Remar is careful to show that Ajax is also loving every moment of the battle.
Remar's best scene is when all of Ajax's vices come together as he tries to harass a woman in the part. Remar's quite good in this scene because he portrays it every simply as the worst of the thug mentality, and shows technically what the real nature of Ajax is. The best moment comes when the woman reveals herself to be a cop while handcuffing Ajax to a bench and signaling for him to be picked up. Remar's is very good in the scene portraying Ajax as losing any of that cool he had before, and almost turns him into an animal in a cage that is simply trying to get from from his bonds. The only problem is with the scene is it is instantly the end of Ajax and we never see him again once he is taken away by the police leaving us only with the far less interesting characters. Remar with his relatively brief time though gives a much fuller portrayal of gang member as he honestly brings the cool with the tough carefree attitude, yet cleverly subverts that by showing he still is a thug when you see what really compels him.