Colors n the Hood
A nice companion-piece and counterpoint to the admittedly superior Boyz n the Hood, Colors boasts a heavyweight Robert Duvall and a young Sean Penn facing urban warfare in LA.Established a decade earlier, the 1988 film focusses on LAPD's CRASH Division, combating gang crimes across LA. Woefully outnumbered, we follow two officers - one veteran on the cusp of retirement and one cocky newcomer - as they navigate the gang-ridden neighbourhoods, and deal with what they encounter in very different ways. Duvall's seasoned pro knows the pointlessness of busting criminals for petty offences, and the wasted time the paperwork will take, and adopts a far more pragmatic attitude to policing the streets; his name is known amongst the gangs, some of whom even respect him, and he's only after the bigger fish. Conversely Penn's brash newbie wants to police the hell out of the world, crack down on the streets and wipe out crime all in a day's work - adopting CRASH's motto to effectively be just another gang on the streets. The two clash repeatedly, whilst trying to juggle the machinations of a trio of criminal gangs - the Bloods, Crips and the Latino contingent - all of whom seem destined to wipe each other out.Returning to the director's chair some 16 years after Easy Rider, the late Dennis Hopper sparked off something of a career resurgence with this acclaimed cop drama, affording some measure of authenticity to his vision of LA gang violence, and enlisting the help of many real gang members along the way (some of whom were even shot over the course of the production). Almost ahead of its time, Colors appeared to borrow from the real life Operation Hammer that preceded it, whilst also foreboding the later LA Riots, but it actually started its life as a Chicago drug gang script which Hopper had rewritten to fit the LA themes. Sean Penn makes for a perfect foil to Duvall's heavyweight, there's dynamic support from now-famous faces (Don Cheadle, Damon Wayans, Tony Todd), and with some early Ice-T peppering the classic rap soundtrack, as well as Hopper turning in a strong effort as the director, this is a well-made piece which may not be as poetic or powerful as it's younger brother, Boyz n the Hood, but is still a great little police drama.
Picture QualityColors reaches UK shores courtesy of MGM whose Region B-locked Blu-ray boasts a strong and faithful 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation of the feature, framed in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 widescreen.
Whilst clearly wearing its age and budget on its sleeve, this is a surprisingly rich presentation for the 1988 feature.
Muted, faded tones compete with a few more vibrant colours, although none of it feels unexpected or out of place for this feature, which probably looks as good here as you’d ever expect it to look, with some decent close-ups affording plenty of fine observation of skin details – from Duvall’s craggy looks to Penn’s puppy-dog youth. There are some nice wider shots as well, with the streets coming alive, although softness does encroach, and clarity isn’t consistent. Whilst digital defects are kept to a relative minimum, Colors marks a relatively rare example of a presentation which actually has some old print scratches that come through here, but at least the grain layer is stable. Whilst none of this comes even close to getting us into demo territory, this is still the best shape many will have ever encountered the film and a strong, faithful representation of the source material.
The accompanying LPCM 2.0 Stereo track also does a solid job with the audio.
A late 80s synth-flavoured score certainly dates the piece, but some classic early rap tracks (Ice-T headlining) help give it some teeth, whilst the core elements – the dialogue, prioritised and coherent across the frontal array, and the effects – are delivered with faithful, natural presence. Gunshots carry some limited weight, and get a little directionality, but the majority of the limited-array track is still fairly restricted, although it’s fully-flavoured and perfectly suits the mood, tone and era of the piece. There are some louder setpieces; car chases, raids, parties and drive-bys all allowing for more energetic fury, and the rest remains a solid front-dominated aural accompaniment which was never going to win any awards but which does a commendable job with this material.
ExtrasSecond Sight have admitted to having the option to provide an alternate extended cut as well as the original Theatrical Version, but elected not to do so because the additional scenes were simply not up to scratch. It certainly would have been nice to have both options, but at least we get the additional scenes here, almost 9 minutes of footage which is much of a mixed bag but still mostly involves the main players and occasionally some nifty shots (the helicopter use was frivolous but still quite stylish). The meat of the package comes in two Interviews, one with the Screenwriter and the other with the Technical Advisor, who was on the LAPD taskforce himself. They're weighty - almost half an hour and over a quarter of an hour, respectively, and make for welcome background.
Neither as poetic nor as powerful, Colors still makes for a great companion-piece to Boyz n the Hood.
Second Sight's Region B-locked UK Blu-ray release marks the film's worldwide Blu-ray debut and it's a solid effort, with strong video and audio and a nice selection of extras. It may not win any awards; it may not make for demo material to show off your kit with, but fans are going to be pretty damn happy to finally get Colors in HD and to find that it hasn't been DNR'd to hell and back.
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