Colors begins with the text opener that there are 250 cops and sheriffs in Los Angeles to deal with 600 street gangs totalling 70,000 individuals. The police unit is known as C.R.A.S.H. – Cops Rallying Against Slovenly Hoodlums. Nah, actually, it stands for Community Resources Against Street Hoodlums. Well, I was 40% right.
It’s one of a new slew of ’80s and ’90s titles being premiered on Blu-ray which I happened to miss first time round – and probably wouldn’t have appreciated back in the day, plus I’ve missed well as any TV screenings since, and so where better to check them out than in a remastered HD form.
This film may not sound like the most original of premises, showing a clash of cop cultures between wise old owl Bob Hodges (Robert Duvall) and inexperienced rookie Danny McGavin (Sean Penn), but it’s been 27 years since Colors came out and we’ve since experienced the okayish End Of Watch and the far superior Showtime TV series Southland, cancelled long before its time after five seasons (although almost having died a death after just one), and I could go on all day about why that show should be revived, but this is not a review of Southland.
Gangs are running rife in LA with ringleaders Rocket (Don Cheadle) and High Top (Glenn Plummer), and like a losing player on ’90s TV quiz show Going For Gold, the under-resourced police are always playing catch-up. Of the two leads, Sean Penn looks very much younger, but Robert Duvall has never been younger on film than about 50, it seems. In almost every film I’ve seen with the latter, he’s played a samey type of fatherly/authoritative figure. Penn, on the other hand, has had a chequered career, but recently proved himself to be so good in The Gunman, really getting stuck into his late-middle-age while being the tough hardman onscreen.
In addition to the Ice T theme, there’s plenty of 80s synth music from Herbie Hancock, making it feel a bit ‘Beverly Hills Cop‘ at times, so less of a tough drama and more a comedy, but that’s just my interpretation of the audio, especially since I’ve seen the BHC films too often.
Colors could quite possibly get away with a 15-cert if re-rated today. Yes, it’s violent and it contains a lot of strong language, but there’s very little in the way of sexual content, so since the BBFC tend to go for a 15-cert if the film goes one way or the other on these and NOT both, I think it’d be a… dead-cert. However, it’s unlikely the studio are going to pay out for it to be re-rated, unlike Fox did with the first two Die Hard films to get them each out as a 15-cert uncut when re-released in cinemas, as Colors has that cachet of being an 18-certificate.
Yes, some corpses are covered in blood, but being made in the late ’80s, it looks more like a bottle of ketchup has exploded over them.
As well as an early appearance from Don Cheadle, there’s also the superbly-named Grand Bush! He ‘renamed’ himself to Grand L Bush by the time his next movie came out, Die Hard, starring as FBI Agent Little Johnson alongside Robert Davi, who was also the baddie in his next movie, the Bond film, Licence to Kill. After a few more films, he co-starred with Emilio Estevez in 1992’s Freejack, one of my all-time favourite movies.
Maria Conchita Alonso also pops up as MCGavin’s love interest Louisa, but overall she’s very much underused. Other cast members of note include a young Damon Wayans as gang member T-Bone, and a cook who’s aptly played by a man with the name Fred Asparagus.
Seriously, though, full credit also goes to Trinidad Silva as gang member Frog, the actor sadly passing away in 1988 in a car accident, from which his wife and son thankfully survived.
The film is presented in the original 1.85:1 widescreen ratio and in 1080p high definition. On Blu-ray, don’t be discouraged that the opening credits are a little hazy. I’ve seen this happen a lot with some films. Maybe the start of the print wasn’t as well looked after? Either way, what follows shows that any defects were part of the original print and it looks glorious and sharp afterwards with great 1080p definition.
Shot in Dolby Stereo Spectral Recording, that’s effectively like Dolby Surround before that name evolved. There’s great use of rear speakers for some elements of the soundtrack even though this surround-sound soundtrack doesn’t have split-surrounds that you’d get from a modern day 5.1 soundtrack.
The extras are as follows and begin with a couple of really good interviews:
- Cops and Robbers (16:53): Real-life tales of life on the street with LAPD Gang Division cop and technical advisor Dennis Fanning, mixed in with clips from the film, as well as telling us how he got to appear on film.
- Cry of Alarm (28:46): Then a rookie screenwriter, Michael Schiffer gives us fascinating recollections of working with Penn, Duvall and Hopper, as well as the rest of the cast. He states how he didn’t know anything about gangs in LA, or anywhere else for that matter, but he still came up with a hugely engaging movie. He also talks about how relevant the film is today, given the shootings in places like Ferguson, Missouri.
- Deleted Scenes (8:42): Six scenes here, of varying quality, some in 1.85:1 and some in 4:3. Out of them all, I would suggest putting back in No.5, but perhaps it’s better as a deleted scene since otherwise it could give away a later scene.
There are 20 chapters on this disc which is most welcome as it’s better than the usual 12 most distributors give. I would always recommend one every 5 minutes, which is almost on a par with the number here. The menu mixes clips from the film with Ice T’s theme.
There are no subtitles which is annoying given that some characters talk way too fast, while the street lingo will also pass you by, and for a title being retailed at £19.99, why skimp on such a traditional item?
Running time: 120 mins
Released: August 24th 2015
Picture: 1080p High Definition
Sound: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 (Dolby Surround)
Disc Format: BD50
Director: Dennis Hopper
Producer: Robert H Solo
Screenplay: Michael Schiffer (based on the story by Michael Schiffer and Richard Di Lello)
Music: Herbie Hancock
Danny McGavin: Sean Penn
Bob Hodges: Robert Duvall
Louisa Gomez: Maria Conchita Alonso
Ron Delaney: Randy Brooks
Larry Sylvester: Grand L Bush
Rocket: Don Cheadle
Bird: Gerardo Mejía
High Top: Glenn Plummer
Melindez: Rudy Ramos
Bailey: Sy Richardson
Frog: Trinidad Silva
Reed: Charles Walker
T-Bone: Damon Wayans
Cook: Fred Asparagus
Officer Porter: Sherman Augustus
Spanky: Bruce Beatty
Woman in Recreation Center: Paula Bellamy
Tommie Hodges: Brandon Bluhm
Young Crip #1: Mark Booker
Cop at Sharon’s: Ron Boyd
C.R.A.S.H. Secretary: Verda Bridges
Rusty Baines: RD Call
Gato: Steven Camarillo
Sullivan: Seymour Cassel
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.