Blu-ray: Colors (1988)
Before ‘Boyz n the Hood‘ (John Singleton’s seminal film about L.A. gang culture), before gangster rap was played over every radio station worldwide, before ‘thug life‘ was a household term, even before the Rodney King incident, there was a film that reflected the violence and tension of the time and went on to become one of the most controversial films of that decade; Dennis Hopper’s cutting-edge classic ‘Colors’.
Second Sight Films have finally brought Colors to Blu-ray with re-mastered HD picture and sound which breathe new life into this influential 80’s masterpiece.
Set amid the terrifying plague of gang culture that overwhelmed Los Angeles during the 80’s and into the 90’s, we follow veteran L.A.P.D. officer Bob Hodges (Robert Duvall) who is part of their gang crime division known as C.R.A.S.H (Community Resources Against Street Hoodlums), a reactive cell of the police that infamously fought the war on gangs with a ‘shoot first ask questions later’ approach. Bob is partnered with rookie upstart Danny McGavin (Sean Penn) who is all adrenaline and no reason. They hit the streets and are public enemy No.1 as ‘The Crips’ & ‘The Bloods’ vie for supremacy on the streets and will kill anyone that gets in their way.
McGavin and Hodges are instantly at odds. Hodges experience can see the horror rising all around them and realises the war is unwinnable, while McGavin earns the nickname ‘Pacman’ as he eats his way through gang territory and is taking down thugs with excessive force. His card is marked and his time is getting short.
Colors is almost a forgotten film these days, although its influence is massive. This was the first film to document the gang situation in L.A. before the pop culture favourites Menace II Society and Training Day. I also feel the stunning End of Watch could almost be seen as a homage to it as well. Sean Penn and Robert Duvall are both at the top of their game here and play off each other perfectly. Duvall especially has some brilliant monologues.
Colors has a memorable score and title song from hip hop master Ice-T and it is directed surprisingly well by Hollywood lunatic/royalty Dennis Hopper, who never really made another film of this calibre again.
This is a film that needs to be kept alive, as nearly 30 years later it’s still as relevant and vital as ever. Don’t think gangsters were born with 50 Cent and Pimp My Ride, go back and discover this stone cold classic and see where it all began.
A CRY OF ALARM – An interview with screenwriter Michael Schiffer who also went on to script Crimson Tide and the Call of Duty video games. This is excellent and Schiffer is full of anecdotes and insights into the film and its production.
COPS and ROBBERS – An interview with former L.A.P.D. officer and the films technical advisor Dennis Fanning. Dennis is the basis for the characters in Colors; he’s the real deal and shares stories of his time on the mean streets of L.A. during his time in the gang division.
Colors is released on August 24th, 2015.
Review by Ramrod (co-host of 60 Minutes With) from a disc kindly supplied by Aim Publicity.