Late, celebrated actor Dennis Hopper found himself in some memorable, icon roles in legendary films over his careers. He found himself working with his fair share of the greats, whether they be directors, writers or fellow cast mates. Even in such low budget, b-horror fare as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2, he’s fantastic and unforgettable. Hopper also directed 7 films during his lifetime (1 as an Alan Smithee). Of course he launched his directing career with the game-changing Easy Rider. In 1988, he helmed his fourth film which took a relentless, gritty look at the world of the police and gangs in Los Angeles. It paired together a young, up and coming star in Sean Penn with season, veteran Robert DuVall. Shout! Factory is adding it, in the film’s Unrated/International form, to its Shout Select Collector’s Edition line on March 7th.
In the ‘hood, all that matters are your colors… Bob Hodges is a seasoned street cop who has learned a lot from long experience while his new, young partner, Danny McGavin, has learned nothing – yet knows it all. Forced to work together in the L.A.P.D.’s renowned C.R.A.S.H. anti-gang unit, they set out to investigate a brutal gang murder. Hated and hunted by both sides, the cops soon find themselves trapped in the middle of a turf war. With nowhere to turn, they are ambushed, double-crossed and shot at in a take-no-prisoners street battle. As the violence escalates, these two diametrically opposed men must come to terms with one important fact – to stay alive they must come together!
For those who revisit the film or see it for the first time or mostly a younger generation that wasn’t alive for when this film was made or the times it’s pulling inspiration take place, it’ll be really interesting to see how they react. For its time, Colors was sort of a divisive film. It was one of the first movies and big studio films to tackle the subject matter of gangs and street violence. The film also takes a more ruthless look at this Los Angeles underbelly. In today’s climate, the police are looked upon in a completely different light and this film could be received in a much less positive manner or supportive of the film’s protagonists. There are scenes regarding police action that probably should have been taken in that light back when the movie came out that maybe finally can be seen as that today.
Aside from Sean Penn, the film also features some other case members new on the scene and getting their dues in. If you look closely you’ll see very young Don Cheadle, Damon Wayans, Courtney Gains, Leon (Credited as Leon Robinson here), Mario Lopez and Tony Todd. They all have little parts that come and go, but Hopper had the makings of a stacked cast here. This was also another big role for Maria Conchita Alonso who was rising on the scene and following up her success with the Arnold Schwarzenegger/Stephen King classic, The Running Man.
I had never seen the film Colors before this review. I knew of it, but never ventured to checking it out. However, I was familiar with the song from the film by Ice-T. Maybe it was used in something else I had seen. But when it first played in the film, my mind said “Oh yeah, makes sense”. The soundtrack, that went gold in terms of sales (While not charting incredibly strong) contained tracks from Rick James, Salt-n-Peppa, Big Daddy Kane and Eric B and Rakim.
Overall, the film is a very interesting and solid watch. In terms of a narrative or a plot device to drive it, its severely lacking. The premise is pretty much “Gangs are bad and dangerous, cops have a hard time stopping them”. There’s no real drive and it feels a little aimless. Almost like a series of different cop stories or sketches that were attempted to be strung together into one long story. Sean Penn’s Danny McGavin also is a bit of a tough pill to swallow. But, I have to say, a movie that sends you through those thoughts and feelings is a positive one in my mind.
Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Clarity/Detail: Colors makes its debut on US Blu-ray with a good clean look to it. This print has been cleaned up the right way or was kept in good shape through the years. Its not going to knock anyone’s socks off, but this is the type of terrific, consistent work you can expect from Shout! Factory. Details are strong, the picture is crisp and plays smooth, making it the best it’s surely ever looked.
Depth: Good spacing in this movie throughout. Depth and distance is a nicely above average, especially in interiors. Movements come across as cinematic and have no real jitter or blur issues.
Black Levels: Blacks are a bit deep and rich. Hair and surfaces (like the black on the police cars) manage to maintain quality detail and texture. Clothing has a little harder time controlling its detail as well as very darkly lit sequences. No crushing was witnessed during this review.
Color Reproduction: Colors’ colors (sorry, had to say that) are natural and consistent. Some reds and blues burst a little more in areas, but for the most part things are natural and bold in their appearance.
Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and consistent throughout the film from scene to scene. Medium and close up shots reveal scars, zits, wrinkles, stubble, make-up, freckles and much more with ease.
Noise/Artifacts: There is a layer of grain and minimal amount of specs and dirt on the image.
Audio Format(s): English 2.0 DTS-HD MA
Dynamics: Colors brings a very impacting 2.0 track that really gets its boom quite right and is nice and deep in the right spots. Foley sounds are terrific as well, spotting footsteps, gunfire or just random clicks and sounds in the cars. Ambiance holds well, too. The music also bumps quite nicely. This is a very good 2.0 track, you could really ask for much more in terms of what its delivering.
Low Frequency Extension: N/A
Surround Sound Presentation: N/A
Dialogue Reproduction: Dialogue is clean and crisp. Diction is executed quite well.
Cry of Alarm (HD, 28:46) – An interview with screenwriter Michael Schiffer. He recalls a meeting with Sean Penn and someone else just sitting and crazily pitching the film. When researching the film, he hooked up with a photographer who knew a probation officer that got him a chance to ride around with gang units. He purchased a mag light and bullet proof vest in preparation. This is also where the “Bull story” from the film came from. Every time he interviewed a gang member, it took like 20 minutes for them to take him seriously.
Cops & Robbers (HD, 16:53) – An interview with Technical Advisor/Ex-L.A.P.D. Gang Division Dennis Fanning. After giving a little background of how he became a cop, he gives a rundown of how things were back in the day, recalling the real events that helped inform this film. The program known as CRASH was originally TRASH for example.
Trailer (HD, 1:53)
Colors is a hard lined police procedural looking into the likes of gang violence. It was novel at the time, but we’ve since seen this taken to new levels and also flushed out on television. Shout! Select’s new Blu-ray is both rock solid on a visual and audio level and it includes some nice bonus features. While not one of the most loaded in the Select line, it’s a worthy addition.