Colors: Collector's Edition [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Shout! Factory
Review written by and copyright: Anthony Arrigo (2nd April 2017).
The Film

Gang activity has been a part of daily life in certain Los Angeles neighborhoods for decades, but it was during the 80's when violence seemed to be escalating to record highs. The Los Angeles Police Department (L.A.P.D.) has the unenviable task of dealing with the gangs, making tenuous truces with its members, and deciding which crimes are worth a mountain of paperwork for minor, if any, gains. It is a Herculean task, one which seems nearly impossible once the scope and difficulty are considered. Dennis Hopper, in the role of director, takes a close look at the life of two routine L.A.P.D. officers with “Colors” (1988). Although the film does ostensibly have protagonists and antagonists the line between the two is often blurred – sometimes a gang member performs a good deed or helps out the cops, sometimes a cop goes too far and abuses a perp to the point where it becomes criminal. Cops do their best to keep street kids out of the gangs, but for many of them this is the only life they’ve ever known, and all of their friends are already members. The warring between the various gang factions isn’t limited to members, though, and “Colors” also deals with the collateral damage that often occurs during a drive-by or verbal confrontation. It is a problem that seemingly cannot be solved.

After some opening text relaying alarming gang statistics, we are introduced to Officer Bob Hodges (Robert Duvall), a veteran of the force, and his new rookie partner, Danny McGavin (Sean Penn). The two are assigned to sweep the streets of East Los Angeles and South Central, both notorious ganglands. Hodges is the diplomat of the two, bargaining with local gang leaders and trying to get them to encourage the youth to find a better life. He attempts to broker temporary ceasefires, appealing to the gangsters with his affable demeanor. He’s no fool, though; he knows the score on these streets, and when someone isn’t willing to co-operate his tone quickly shifts. McGavin, on the other hand, proves himself to be something of a loose cannon. He is a hot shot who tries the hardline approach at every stop, despite Hodges seasoned advice that he do the opposite. McGavin earns the nickname “Pac-Man” after he and Hodges are given an ugly yellow car to drive after a pursuit leaves their previous vehicle totalled. Pac-Man quickly gains a reputation on the streets for being a brutal enforcer of law – his law – and his methods eventually earn him a spot on the gangster hit list.

What Hodges and McGavin soon figure out is they are in the midst of a triple gang war between the Bloods, Crips, and Hispanics. After a drive-by carried out by Rocket (Don Cheadle) and his Crips brothers, there have been retaliations by rival groups. Frog (Trinidad Silva) tries to avoid the impending gang war by slipping some information to Hodges, hoping to get an I.O.U. out of the deal, too, but the block has ears all around and it isn’t long before Hodges’ casual informant is revealed. Pac-Man, meanwhile, has been trying to woo a local Hispanic waitress, Louisa (Maria Conchita Alonso), who is finding it difficult to separate Pac-Man from McGavin. Soon Hodges’ rookie will get a taste of what happens when you push back too hard on the streets.

Hopper’s film is a powerful examination of the insurmountable odds facing both law enforcement and the gang members they patrol. Escaping these streets is an exception, not the rule, and the lure of a quick payday and the respect of peers and elders is a temptation too great for most. Many of the characters in “Colors” operate in a grey area (ironically), where a person can be committing a serious crime one minute but assisting law enforcement the next. Almost no one, outside of maybe Rocket and his crew, is painted as purely bad; similarly, none of the good guys, save for Hodges perhaps, is presented as an absolute good. It requires deft navigation to get around on these streets; sometimes you play by the street rules, sometimes you play by your own. And sometimes the streets play you.

Shout! Select presents “Colors” in an "Unrated Cut", which includes footage from the international release as well as some deleted scenes. The additions add up to around seven minutes of extra footage. This isn’t a case where some odds & ends best left removed have been put back in, either, because the extensions and minor scene inclusions help to flesh out this world and its inhabitants just a bit more. It would have been nice to have both cuts included here via seamless branching, since it is likely some fans may prefer the original cut, but what is presented here still respects the overall tone without bogging it down.

Video

Framed at 1.85:1, with a 1080p 24/fps AVC MPEG-4 encoded image, “Colors” lives up to its name by exploding with a bright palette to capture the reds, blues, and yellow of the film’s universe. Film grain remains cinematic but it appears fine and natural; perhaps some minor DNR has been applied but nothing to smooth out or smear the image. Clarity is excellent, especially during the brightly lit daylight scenes under a Southern California sun. There are instances of dirt and debris cluttering up the image at sporadic times. Aside from a few minor complaints this is a very strong image that should please fans that have been waiting for this on Blu-ray.

Audio

The English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo track brings the thunder in every respect expect one: deep bass. Ice-T’s theme song is sorely lacking in the stomach-rumbling department, but other than that this is a clean track with great levels and an ear for intensity when the action starts to heat up. Subtitles are included in English.

Extras

Bonus features here are light and, even worse, the disc doesn’t even include Ice-T’s music video. Geez!

“Cry of Alarm: An Interview with Screenwriter Michael Schifferfeaturette (1080p) runs for 28 minutes and 46 seconds. This might be the only good extra on here but it is a very good extra. Schiffer has plenty of stories to tell, starting off with him getting the gig in such a stereotypical Hollywood fashion. Great insight here.

“Cops & Robbers” (1080p) is a featurette that runs for 16 minutes and 53 seconds. Dennis Fanning, a technical advisor on the film and member of the L.A.P.D. Gang Division, speaks about the state of L.A. and the film’s representation.

A theatrical trailer (1080p) runs for 1 minute and 53 seconds.

Packaging

The single disc comes housed in a standard Blu-ray keep case.

Overall

Just as potent today as it was nearly thirty years ago, “Colors” shines a light on a problem to which there is no simple solution, bringing viewers into a world hitherto unknown to 99% of them. It is a scary place, one where hope seems fleeting, but Hopper presents things as they are and not how movie audiences might want them to be.

The Film: B+ Video: B+ Audio: B+ Extras: C Overall: B

 


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