To keep the totally rad 80’s movies kick going, this week sees a special edition of my regular column of all things five-star film past – welcome to Forgotten Friday Flick! Since the good folks over at Mill Creek Entertainment decided to finally release the film I’ve chosen here on a more lush than VHS Blu-ray format I thought why not kill two birds with one critical stone. The result – a film review and Blu-ray review rolled into one for your reading convenience! That’s right folks! Not only do you get the full review of my favorite produced by Michael Mann 80’s misfit flick for Forgotten Friday Flick time, but you also get a bird’s eye view into the Blu-ray specs on the latest release ala Mill Creek to boot. So let’s get the team together, form a bond and become one of the five fingers ala…Band Of The Hand!
Guilty of various crimes, five juvenile delinquents find themselves behind bars. They include two rival gang leaders, Ruben Pacecho leader of the Home Boys and Moss Roosevelt leader of the 27th Avenue Players, drug trafficker Carlos Aragon, auto thief Dorcy Bridger and arsonist and abusive father murderer J.L. MacEwen. But much to their surprise the five caged youths find themselves taken out of their cells, forced out into the swamp and thrust together to fend and survive with no apparent reason. Enter Joe Tegra. A Vietnam veteran Native American, Joe has hand picked and banded together the group of misfits to teach them all lessons in humility, survival and self-esteem and he’s going to make them a team…or die trying.
Sounds a bit like one of those Afterschool Specials, but there’s none that I can remember watching that have the sense of style that Band of the Hand does. Directed by Paul Michael Glaser, who helmed the style driven The Running Man and some of the best Miami Vice episodes, the film is a perfect display of early 80’s visual prowess. From the fast cutting opening (the team is introduced with their own crimes and visual mug shots!) to the pastel Miami colors (Mann has his hands in here deep!), Glaser takes a pretty basic story and elevates it to a cool looking character piece that stands and delivers. Not to mention Manhunter music muse Michael Rubini adds extra film flavor to Glaser’s vision, plus there are a gaggle of notable chart topping songs to solidify the MTV vibe (how about a little Bob Dylan, Mr. Mister and Prince!) – this one sounds as good as it looks.
But ultimately it’s the colorful cast that delivers the goods and Band of the Hand has some interesting odd choices beginning with Stephen Lang as the leader of the motley crew. His Joe Tegra is a serious and seriously damaged dude and it’s his big batch of back baggage that adds extra layers to an already tough hombre – he’s the real deal. Plus as his youthful cohorts the cast is made up of some obvious (Michael Carmine’s hothead thug is right out of bad guy 101!) and some not so obvious (fully weirded out by the creepy and quiet wares of John Cameron Mitchell’s punk kid J.L.!) gents that together make the sometimes unbelievable believable. (And easy to root for!) There is also some early work from blast from the past actors including James Remar as a sleazy drug pin, Laurence Fishburne as a pimp named Cream and smaller bits by Miami Vice alum Bill Smitrovich and Martin Ferrero, but it’s frankly the charisma of the younger cast that gives Band of the Hand the ability to overcome any and all silly story bits and come off cool.
Funny thing is the film is broken down into three different settings (first the swamp, then a flop house in Miami, then onto a gunfight at a drug distribution center!) each with their own feel, vibe and look, but under the long and ample wing of Glaser all work and blend well. A product of the best that the 80’s has to offer in terms of pretty prowess and panache, Band of the Hand may feel like a walk down the a road well travelled, but it still looks damn good.
- Encoding: AVC MPEG-2
- Resolution: 1080p
- Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
- Clarity/Detail: No gonna lie here – the picture is a tad foggy and the crisp Glaser visuals do seem a tad muted.
- Depth: Again very surface stuff in the transfer.
- Black Levels: The night scenes actually play out the best with much more detail.
- Color Reproduction: Colors run from bright to dim – a wobbly transfer that Glaser would most likely not put his seal of approval on.
- Flesh Tones: Fine.
- Noise/Artifacts: Clean.
- Audio Format(s): Dolby Digital 2.0
- Subtitles: English SDH
- Dynamics: Kicks into high gear when the music is loud and proud.
- Low Frequency Extension: We do get some nature sounds during the swamp portions of the flick – the rest is a wash.
- Surround Sound Presentation: Barely there – front and center.
- Dialogue Reproduction: Does being able to hear the dialogue count – then it’s fine.
There are sadly NO Extras on this disc as it’s not a special edition or a collector’s set. It does have a reversible sleeve with cool artwork in different colors on both sides and a very reasonable sale price – that’s it folks!
As far as the film goes it’s a five-star affair – style, and sizzle via an 80’s gifted Glaser. In terms of the disc itself is this the best transfer and presentation of said material so far? Sure. Is it going to get the fan or Glaser seal of approval – hardly. This Blu-ray is certainly a step above my crappy VHS copy, but foggy visuals, shaky titles and no input from either Glaser or his cinematographer Reynaldo Villalobos in terms of color correction makes this a cool bargain bin item at best. Hopefully Shout Factory or Scream Factory will get off their duff and give Band of the Hand the treatment and lush extras it deserves. Until then this one will do…for now.