Colors: Collector’s Edition
Studio: Shout! Factory
Mar 09, 2017 Web Exclusive
In the late ‘80s, gang violence menaced the streets of Los Angeles. The largest among the many notable gangs, the Crips and Bloods fought over territory in the drug trade, doing battle with weapons more deadly than what was carried by the police, and with hundreds of innocents being caught in the crossfire. Danny McGavin (Sean Penn) is new to the LAPD’s anti-gang unit, freshly paired with veteran street cop Bob Hodges (Robert DuVall) to investigate a drive-by homicide. With opposing views on how to deal with their city’s dangerous hoodlums, the new partners must try to see eye-to-eye in order to find their killer.
Colors was directed by Dennis Hopper just a year after the one-two gonzo performance punch of Blue Velvet and Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. His first directorial effort since Easy Rider nineteen years earlier, the movie was released right as the plight of gang warfare was hitting the national spotlight. Shot with gritty style entirely in Los Angeles, Colors still manages to shock with its moments of sudden, unexpected violence; these jarring instances seem to explode from the movie’s most seemingly peaceful scenes. Penn is good as the hotheaded rookie, but DuVall is even better as his jaded mentor. The plot meanders in a way that makes the audience feel as if they’re on a ride along with its leads, but too much time is unnecessarily devoted to a love story that really doesn’t go anywhere you can’t see coming from the very beginning. While Colors’ down-to-earth, dual portrayal of police work and criminal dealings has since been outdone by The Wire and the entertainment it consequently inspired, there’s no doubt fans of any of those shows will be more than satisfied by this film.
In addition, Colors is an incredible snapshot of some of the grittier neighborhoods of Los Angeles in the late ‘80s, with its neon signs, graffiti-covered walls, and crumbling concrete. (Watch in the opening credits for a shot of the old State Theatre on Broadway—now a church—which happened to be showing a Cannon double bill of American Ninja 2 and Street Smart on the day they filmed.) You can also look out for Don Cheadle, Damon Wayans, and Mario Lopez in early bit roles as gang members.
Colors hits Blu-ray with a strong, bold HD transfer and a pair of good interviews. The first, with screenwriter Michael Schiffer, provides a rather thorough making-of story, while the second, with technical advisor Dennis Fanning, is even more interesting. (Fanning was part of the LAPD’s gang division in the 1980s, and the tidbits he shares about those days are harrowing.) All in all, Colors is a worthy pickup for anyone looking for a compelling cop thriller.
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